What Ohio’s Fetal Heartbeat Bill Teaches Republicans About Not Repeating Obama’s Mistakes

The Republicans rode three separate electoral waves into the majority control they have over the federal government beginning in January. The victories were massive, and they absolutely crushed the hopes of many Democrats for the foreseeable future. The challenge for Republicans is to know how to ride the victory without over-extending themselves. It was a mistake that Barack Obama made time and again as the Democrats assumed themselves to have a permanent majority.

In a democratic system such as ours, a permanent majority is impossible. Public opinion changes like the tide and the Republicans will inevitably themselves fall out of power to either the Democrats or some new threat, depending on how the Democrats respond to this year’s crushing defeat.

This brings me to Ohio, which made some big headlines in both the pro-life and pro-choice worlds yesterday. Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed one pro-life bill and signed another. The vetoed bill is what is referred to commonly as a fetal heartbeat bill. The premise of such a potential law is that if doctors can determine a heartbeat, then you cannot abort the child. For those who have had children, this comes at a fairly early stage in the pregnancy. The bill Kasich did sign, however, was the 20-week ban, a pro-life bill that many who are more moderately pro-life readily support and endorse.

This is an example of John Kasich relying on the strategies of the Reagan era in which he cut his teeth, and it’s an example of something Republicans need to learn to do quickly if they wish to avoid the same catastrophes that befell the Democrats just two years into their most recent reign.

Now, a 20-week ban is by no means the gold standard of the pro-life movement. It still leaves half the pregnancy as being okay to terminate. The fetal heartbeat movement, likewise, is the absolute best you can do without just spitting in the face of Roe v. Wade, which I know is an incredibly tempting urge. However, the 20-week ban is still an effective line in the sand, and is much more palatable to the forces of the pro-choice movement when put next to the more extreme heartbeat bill. Therefore, it is much easier for them to say “Okay, this is a compromise we can work with… for now.”

And there it is. That’s the word that the Trump supporters in particular are going to hate. Compromise. However, the word as it is being used here is not the same word as used by the Washington D.C. Establishment as a means of giving up while claiming victory. Compromise, in the Reagan-era sense, is starting as far to your side as possible and working inward to something that still moves the ball down the field. When the Democrats took over, they went to the extreme, the Affordable Care Act, and did not compromise. They shut Republicans out of the process. They can argue otherwise, but when you advance a bill with no Republican support whatsoever, and when you don’t take seriously any ideas they bring to the table, you are not compromising. You are dictating terms.

The Republicans have every reason to want to do the very same thing, but it is tactically a bad idea to do so. The backlash from going to the extreme causes the pendulum to swing the other way. Instead, the Republicans should fight for the wins that give Democrats something, even if it isn’t much. There should be some sort of common ground to find, and there are plenty of issues in which this does work.

Donald Trump should not, under any circumstances, do the same thing Barack Obama did. Obama assumed (incorrectly) that he had a public mandate to advance the Democratic Party agenda as much as possible in the short. In hindsight, he did not have any such thing. He simply had the support of a people who were tired of the George W. Bush administration.

Likewise, Trump cannot simply assume a mandate to do everything he wants to do and damn the Democrats along the way. If he does, this era of Republican majorities will come to an end much quicker than he or the party might realize.