Has Abortion Given Democrats the Edge in the Culture War?

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Amid polling showing that the once-anticipated red wave might be shrinking, some have speculated that the abortion issue is helping Democrats climb slowly out of the pit in which they found themselves after a dismal performance over the past nearly two years. Indeed, when it became clear that the Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe v. Wade earlier this year, left-leaning lawmakers pounced on the issue to leverage it as a political cudgel against Republicans, casting them as extremists.

Some have also suggested that the abortion issue might just enable Democrats to narrowly avoid losing the House and Senate in the upcoming congressional elections. But is the Dobbs decision truly going to give them that much of an advantage in the culture war when there are so many other issues on which they have gotten it completely wrong?

Author David Siders penned an op-ed for Politico in which he made that very suggestion. He wrote:

It’s already the consensus that abortion is going to be a good issue for Democrats in November.

What’s only now becoming clear — as Republicans scrub their campaign websites of prior positions on abortion and labor to turn the focus of the midterms back to President Joe Biden and the economy — is just how much the issue is altering the GOP’s standard playbook.

Later in the piece, he made the questionable claim that abortion has given Democrats the upper hand in the culture war and also posited that it has inspired them to tackle Republicans on other important issues. “Following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats from Georgia and Wisconsin to Illinois and California are running ads supporting gun restrictions, once viewed as a liability for the left, while openly engaging Republicans on crime,” he wrote.

The article details an ad campaign that a political action committee launched by leftist group Third Way is planning to launch “in seven competitive House districts to counter Republican attacks on crime, immigration, and other culture war issues.’

But again, these are issues on which Democrats are not winning hearts and minds due to their abysmal policies in each of these categories. The results of an Ipsos poll published last month showed that “Roughly one-third of Americans trust Republicans to do a better job of handling key issues of the day, namely the economy, inflation, crime, and immigration. Around a quarter trust Democrats more on each of these issues.”

Still, at least some Democrats believe they are on the verge of an epic upset. Democratic strategist Jon Reinish said this year could be a situation “in which the deployment of the culture war actually works for the first time in the Democrats’ favor and not the Republicans.”

“That will say a lot about 2024,” he continued. “Democrats are so afraid of their own shadows, naturally. But I think that if it works this time, this could give permission to not be afraid.”

Talk about a failure to read the room, amirite?

The author still acknowledged that the odds remain in the GOP’s favor, despite Democrats closing the gap in recent polling.

“For Republicans, the result has been a general election reset in which the GOP is refocusing squarely on inflation and on Biden, whose low job approval ratings remain a drag on the Democratic Party,” Siders wrote. “Republicans are still widely expected to take the House in November, though likely by narrower margins than once expected. But if they do win the House it will likely be those kitchen-table issues, not the culture wars, that put them over the top.”

He’s partially right. The kitchen table issues like the economy, inflation, and gas prices will likely contribute most to a Republican victory in November.

But it would be foolhardy to dismiss the impact of the debate over education, crime, immigration, and other issues. Parents have already shown how angry they are at progressive attempts to indoctrinate children in K-12 classrooms. They are sick of rising rates of violent crime in their cities. And, despite the effort to ignore the situation, they are still aware that the migrant crisis is worsening at the southern border.

To put it simply, there is no way Democrats can escape from these issues, even if they use abortion to deflect attention from them. In fact, according to a Pew Research poll published in August, abortion is not nearly as high on the list of voter priorities going into the midterms. It falls behind the economy, gun policy, violent crime, health care, voting policies, education, and even Supreme Court appointments.

In the end, there is no denying that the abortion issue will have a significant impact on the outcomes of the elections. But Democrats will need more than the overturning of Roe to have a fighting chance at keeping control of both chambers of Congress.


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