According to Politico, many Republicans are suddenly seeing a different terrain than the one they’ve grown accustomed to. Gone are the days when they could depend on complacency from pro-choicers and white-hot fury from forced-birthers. And, well, they’re not happy about it, as David Siders reports.
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.
For the first time in years, Republican and Democratic political professionals are preparing for a general election campaign in which Democrats — not Republicans — may be winning the culture wars, a wholesale reversal of the traditional political landscape that is poised to reshape the midterms and the run-up to 2024.
One Republican whom Siders interviewed was particularly blunt about the new normal: “The environment is upside down,” said Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. “The intensity has been reversed.”
Of course, abortion isn’t the only issue galvanizing Democrats these days. While Republicans continue to flog fake crises like migrant caravans, critical race theory, and trans athletes destroying the sacred integrity of fourth-grade field hockey matches, Democrats are starting to make inroads by shining a spotlight on genuine GOP extremism.
It isn’t just abortion. Less than 20 years after conservatives used ballot measures against same-sex marriage to boost voter turnout in 11 states, public sentiment has shifted on the issue so dramatically that Democrats are poised to force a vote on legislation to protect same-sex marriage to try to damage Republican candidates. 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.
This seeming reversal of fortune leaves Democrats in an unfamiliar position after spending the past seven years waking up in cold sweats wondering what Evil Mr. Magoo was going to do next. Dare I say we’re actually feeling … optimistic?
“Democrats are like, ‘Eureka! We have our own culture war successes,’” New York-based Democratic strategist Jon Reinish told Siders. In fact, Reinish perceives an environment “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. 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.”
Matt Bennett, executive vice president for public affairs at the center-left think tank Third Way, also sees plenty of opportunity for Democrats to gain additional ground in the culture wars.
“The story is that things that used to be very dangerous for Democrats—guns and abortion—are now very good for Democrats,” Bennett said. “Those kind of culture issues—[same-sex] marriage, abortion and guns—have flipped. The political impact of them [has] flipped.”
Naturally, Republicans want to continue focusing on kitchen table issues like inflation (which, to state the obvious, is a global—and temporary—phenomenon that even Dark Brandon could not have conjured on his own), but they appear to have run into a buzzsaw of their own making.
Again, when you strip a fundamental, 50-year-old right to privacy away from half the population, people tend to notice—especially when they believed it would never happen.
According to veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres, “Cultural issues still benefit Republicans, but Dobbs [the SCOTUS case that overturned Roe v. Wade] is a big deal, because it really energized women who weren’t particularly political before, including younger women.”
And as Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld wrote in August:
Today, same-sex marriage has flipped from being a wedge issue that divided Democrats to one that unites them while driving a wedge straight through the heart of the GOP base, with pro-LGBTQ suburban dwellers largely parting ways with homophobic evangelicals.
Abortion rights are rapidly making the same transition. The big difference is that a solid majority of Americans were already with the reproductive rights movement, they simply needed a reason to prioritize the issue at the polls. An extremist Supreme Court has now handed choice activists that precipitous event along with a flood of harrowing stories to create lasting change.
Now that the dog has caught the car, it has no idea what to do next, and very limited options.
“The best case for Republicans is to have this be a referendum on the Biden administration and Democratic governance, especially inflation, immigration and crime,” Ayres told Siders. “Anything that detracts from that referendum undermines the Republican case.”
RELATED STORY: McConnell has never been so desperate to change the subject as with his Supreme Court gutting Roe
Okay, then. Put your detractin’ shoes on, kids. We have the momentum. Let’s not lose it. Support the fight to keep the House and increase our Senate majority—and do what you can to help get out the vote (and protect that right).
And if all goes as planned, this is the glorious scene we’ll all be waking up to on the morning of Nov. 9:
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