The leak of a US Supreme Court opinion draft overturning Roe v. Wade hit Washington with seismic force this week, generating a political earthquake whose aftershocks are still being felt. While both political parties sprang into action, it was the president’s party that jumped on the document drafted by Justice Samuel Alito as if it were the Holy Grail. In the words of Dusty Springfield, they’re “wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin'” that this will change the course of the big red wave headed their way in November. But that’s not all; they have begun, as the tune goes, “plannin’ and dreamin’.” How do we know this? Because the Democrats sprang into action with hair on fire.
The timetable between the publishing of the document and the fundraising emails from the Democratic Party was exceedingly short. It’s clear from their words and actions that the left believes the leak is a horse they can ride to victory in November. Are they onto something here, or is this merely wishful thinking?
If you are confused about where Americans stand on the issue of abortion, you are not alone. It seems everyone has a poll to support their side of the argument. “This is not a binary issue,” intoned former Trump advisor and pollster Kellyanne Conway on Fox News. “It’s complicated and involves the law, morality, religion, and politics.” Bingo.
Conway made several salient points about the possible political consequences of the US Supreme Court overturning the landmark abortion case. First, if abortion was such a hot-button issue, why weren’t the Democrats talking about it before the leak? Second, this is a matter that galvanizes both parties – not merely the Democrats. In other words, it’s a base issue for both sides of the political divide. Thirdly, abortion is way down the list of current voter concerns – far below topics like inflation, immigration, and energy.
Veteran political author Michael Barone echoed Conway’s reasoning in an article presciently written in December of 2021, in which he explained that “the potential for partisan upheaval is limited because over the past 50 years, views on abortion have increasingly followed party lines.” He also anticipated the Democratic Party’s 911 call to its base should the High Court overturn Roe. “You can expect abortion-rights activists to stoke fears that a reversal of Roe will criminalize abortion in all 50 states. Of course, serious Democrats know better,” opined Barone.
Fifty Laboratories of Democracy
Even the senior columnist for Sabato’s Crystal Ball couldn’t quite make the case that overturning Roe would lead to the Democrats running roughshod over the GOP in the midterms. In a detailed study of state elections that might be affected in a post-Roe world, Louis Jacobson went to great lengths to examine the chances that overturning Roe would significantly alter the predicted outcome of the November elections. “One thing is all but certain: If Roe is overturned, Democrats will try to make abortion an issue in the 2022 midterms,” he wrote. “Whether this turns into a winning issue is far from certain.” Jacobson went on to say:
“Right now, Democrats are facing a difficult political environment — a combination of the historical pattern of parties holding the White House faring poorly in midterm elections and challenges specific to President Joe Biden’s tenure. Voter frustration with Biden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and inflation could overwhelm any gains Democrats get from voters being energized by an overturning of Roe.”
Jacobson also included a quote from Muhlenberg College political scientist Christopher Borick, who is doubtful about the political impact of overturning Roe. “I’m skeptical that the boost they would get would offset the cyclical advantages that the GOP carries into the midterms here,” he said.
The Democrats want to use the potential change to Roe v. Wade as motivation and a call to action to their die-hard constituents. There will be plenty of “It’s my choice. It’s my body” signs yet to make the news between now and the midterms. We are likely to see large-scale protests in front of the US Supreme Court, and Joy Behar will continue railing on The View that the sky is falling. But when all the histrionics are over and done, overturning Roe is not likely to alter the Republican wave predicted at the polls this November.