The New York Times is on a roll. Days after the newspaper glossed over the echoes of Hitler and Mussolini in Donald Trump’s description of his political opponents as “vermin,” it came back to gloss over Trump's record on abortion.
The headline lays out a reasonable question: “Why Trump Seems Less Vulnerable on Abortion Than Other Republicans.” The subhed shows the problem: “He appointed judges who overturned Roe, but his vague statements on the issue may give him some leeway with voters.” This is, of course, the Times continuing to milk its polls showing Trump leading President Joe Biden in key battleground states—the newspaper is not letting go of that poll anytime soon—but the article’s whole argument is an indictment of media coverage on this issue. (And the media needs another indictment of its abortion coverage like Trump needs another indictment for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.)
Let’s take a look at the key argument here:
Mr. Trump seems to have effectively neutralized abortion as an issue during the Republican primary. He appears to be attending to general election voters by employing vagueness and trying to occupy a middle ground of sorts, perhaps allowing voters to see what they want to see. And traditionally in presidential elections, a relatively small share of people will vote based on any one social issue, even if that issue is abortion.
Yes, Trump has taken his dominance in the Republican presidential primary as an opportunity to position himself on this specific issue for a general election. And there is a vague admission that this is political maneuvering. But there are two large issues with assuming that this is simply how it is for Trump.
One, “traditionally in presidential elections, a relatively small share of people will vote based on any one social issue, even if that issue is abortion.” Where have we heard that kind of argument before? Oh, right, in 2022, about the midterm elections in the weeks and months leading up to voters going to the polls and voting on … abortion. The idea that what “traditionally” happened in presidential elections when Roe v. Wade was the law is an indicator of what will happen in 2024 is disqualifying for any political analyst.
Two, much of what follows to support this argument is quotes from people who plan to vote for Trump again. But Trump likely needs to expand his support in 2024, not simply retain what he had when he lost.
There is a very long (so long) presidential campaign coming up during which Trump’s record on abortion will be thoroughly aired. He will certainly try to get some mileage out of opposing six-week abortion bans, but the fact will always remain that six-week abortion bans are possible because of Trump’s own Supreme Court appointments. And Democrats have a lot to work with:
Trump: “After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone … Without me there would be no 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to. Without me the pro Life movement would have just kept losing. Thank you President TRUMP!!!”
Trump: “I’m the one that got rid of Roe v. Wade, and everybody said that was an impossible thing to do. I put on three Supreme Court justices. Very few people have had that privilege or honor.”
It’s Donald Trump. If he’s said something once, he’s probably said it three dozen times. There’s no shortage of footage, and while the traditional media may be content to go with “he’s been vague since he realized that the issue was a political loser,” he’s going to have his feet held to the fire on this one. And when voters are contemplating the next president, Trump’s record with the Supreme Court specifically will loom large. By the end of 2028, Justice Clarence Thomas will be 80. Justice Samuel Alito will be 78. Yes, it’s a gerontocracy and they will hold on to power for as long as they can, but things happen. Voters saw how one Trump presidency affected the court.
This article from the Times basically translates to, "We in the media have failed to inform voters on Trump's record on abortion, and what do you know, some voters aren't very aware of it.” But that doesn’t mean that’s how it’s going to be by Nov. 5, 2024.
The band is back together, and it is a glorious day as Markos and Kerry’s hot takes over the past year came true—again! Republicans continue to lose at the ballot box and we are here for it!