Monday, November 20, 2023


In the opinion section of The New York Times on Saturday, Never Trumper Ross Douthat imagined a fantasy world in which Nikki Haley rescues the Republican Party (and America) from Donald Trump:
For Haley, the stampede scenario requires winning outright in New Hampshire. The difficulty is that even on the upswing, she still trails Trump 46-19 in the current RealClearPolitics Average. But assume that [Chris] Christie drops out and his support swings her way, assume that the current polling underestimates how many independents vote in the G.O.P. primary, assume a slight sag for Trump and a little last-moment Nikkimentum, and you can imagine your way to a screaming upset — Haley 42, Trump 40.

Then assume that defeat forces Trump to actually debate in the long February lull (broken only by the Nevada caucus) between New Hampshire and the primary in Haley’s own South Carolina. Assume that the front-runner comes across as some combination of rusty and insane, Haley handles him coolly and then wins her home state primary. Assume that polls still show her beating Biden, Fox News has rallied to her fully, endorsements flood in — and finally, finally, enough voters who like Trump because he’s a winner swing her way to clear a path to the nomination.
Right -- that could totally happen. (/s)

Douthat would like this outcome because he dislikes Trump and shares many of Haley's beliefs, particularly on the subject of abortion. Gail Collins, by contrast, is a pro-choice liberal, yet today, in conversation with her colleague Bret Stephens, she's having Haley fantasies too:
Gail: Maybe it’s my desperation that creates these imagined scenarios in which Haley impresses New Hampshire voters, who are always up for a script in which they get to pick the new star. And then the campaign gets a real jolt when Christie drops out and gives her his endorsement.

Bret: I like this fantasy. Say more.

Gail: Then Haley starts a serious campaign that draws terrific interest among rich Americans who don’t want a president who has to spend half his time in court trying to prove that he didn’t actually try to fix the last election, that his real estate empire isn’t just a fairyland of debt, that — I could go on. If Haley could get the serious-alternative attention and funding, it’d be quite a ride.
Collins adds, almost as an afterthought:
And oh, did I mention that I’d be thankful if she rethinks her position on a six-week abortion ban bill?
Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Haley has been, as they say, "threading the needle" on abortion:
At the most recent Republican debate, in Miami this month, Ms. Haley said that as president, she would sign an abortion ban of any length passed by Congress. But she also echoed her belief that Republicans would not find enough votes to do so. Instead, she said Americans should “find consensus” where possible on issues such as banning abortions later in pregnancy, promoting adoption and access to contraception and not criminally charging patients who get abortions.

“Stop the judgment,” she said. “We don’t need to divide America over this issue anymore.”
But she wants a decent showing in the Iowa caucuses, so she told an audience in that state on Friday that she would have signed the bill banning abortion after six weeks in her state if she'd still been governor when it was passed.

This bill passed in May. It's effectively a ban, because women are rarely able to determine that they're pregnant and arrange for an abortion within the first six weeks of pregnancy, but it isn't an absolute ban, so today the libertarian-leaning Times opinion writer Jane Coaston is full of praise for Sandy Senn, one of five female state senators in South Carolina who blocked a complete abortion ban.
Some members of the party have had enough. In South Carolina this year, State Senator Sandy Senn was one of three Republicans who, along with a fellow Democratic senator and an independent senator, filibustered efforts to severely restrict abortion in the state. The “sister senators,” as they call themselves, were ultimately unsuccessful in preventing a six-week abortion ban from taking effect. Ms. Senn says that she does not want women to have abortions, but believes voters must have a say, and that there must be a more moderate path on policy. “It should not be a bunch of old men in the South Carolina Legislature deciding their fate,” she told me.
But here's the problem: If you elect Republicans to legislative majorities, then there won't be "a more moderate path on policy," ever. There will never be enough "sister senators" to stand up to abortion extremism, just as there'll never be enough to stand up to gun extremism or anti-renewable energy extremism or pro-plutocrat extremism.

(This isn't the first time Coaston has looked at the GOP and imagined that she saw hopeful signs of abortion moderation in an unlikely place -- here's a piece she wrote for Vox in 2019 titled "Why Some Anti-Abortion Conservatives Think Alabama’s Abortion Law Goes Too Far." These signs didn't amount to much -- abortion is completely banned under an Alabama law that was passed that year and declared constitutional after the Supreme Court's 2022 Dobbs decision.)

You know what I'm not seeing in the Times opinion section? Any excitement about Andy Beshear, who was just reelected as governor of Kentucky as an pro-choice Democrat. But I guarantee you that if Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin had gotten the GOP legislative sweep he so desperately wanted, there would have at least a dozen puff pieces about him in the Times opinion section. The search for a "nice" Republican is never-ending, and will continue.

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