In “The Wizard of Oz,” a tornado sends Dorothy and her Kansas home spinning into the “Merry Old Land of Oz.” Last week it was what Politico called a “political earthquake” in Kansas that sent the national debate over abortion into a new phase with many unknowns.
For decades, the anti-abortion movement worked to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a national right to abortion. But their long-sought goal, finally achieved in June, may turn out to be a case of “be careful what you wish for.” By a vote of 59% to 41%, the people of Kansas rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have eliminated the right to an abortion.
“It’s a huge victory for abortion rights,” wrote Jill Filipovic. “The result in Kansas confirms that Americans simply do not want an extreme anti-abortion movement regulating women’s bodies. Kansans have said what most Americans believe: abortion is an issue best left to women and their doctors.”
But she added that this was a vote which should never have happened. “Fundamental rights – and it doesn’t get more fundamental than sovereignty over one’s own body – should not be up for a vote, even if the righteous side is likely to win,” Filipovic argued.
Writing for Politico, John F. Harris suggested that the vote in Kansas, along with others that may follow, could scramble the legacy of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion overturning Roe. He may go down in history as the “the justice who facilitated a national consensus on behalf of abortion rights. Quite unintentionally, today’s hero of the ‘pro-life’ movement could end up being a giant of the ‘pro-choice’ movement.”
Tuesday’s vote in Kansas, which “mirrors polling showing solid majorities of people supported leaving Roe v. Wade intact, suggests that opponents of legal abortion do better when the prospect of an abortion ban is hypothetical, while abortion-rights supporters do better when the issue is tangibly real,” wrote Harris.
A moderate Republican, former Rep. Charlie Dent, noted that “the overturning of Roe v. Wade has energized a previously demoralized Democratic base and could galvanize college educated suburban women in particular … If the GOP can’t win an abortion fight in Kansas, imagine the difficulty it will face in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”
“Coupled with Trump’s stolen election obsession, mass shootings and a growing number of extreme GOP candidates in competitive races, the unpopularity of the Roe decision may mitigate Democratic losses in November, despite vulnerabilities on a number of other fronts (namely, the economy).”
Dent also faulted Democrats for running ads that backed extreme, election-denying candidates in the GOP primaries in the hope that Democratic candidates could more easily defeat them in the general election. In Michigan, “the courageous freshman Congressman Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump just days after being sworn into Congress, fell to an election-denying candidate, John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who was backed by the former President,” Dent wrote.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $300,000 on ads touting Gibbs’ “conservatism and fidelity to Trump,” wrote Dent. “I’m sure plenty of Democratic operatives are cackling over their success meddling in the GOP primary, but any smugness may turn into deep regret if Gibbs ends up prevailing in November. Those who play with fire often get burned.”
Mary Ziegler and Elizabeth Sepper: The coming state-federal showdown over abortion
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Nancy Pelosi drops in
China fired off missiles, flew jets into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and called off talks with the US on issues such as climate change and military relations. The reason: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, which China sees as part of its territory.
While Pelosi’s visit sparked apocalyptic warnings and fevered headlines, Taiwanese-American journalist Clarissa Wei wrote that the people of Taiwan are mostly unfazed. “What’s most frustrating about the reaction to Pelosi’s visit is not the prophetic declaration of imminent doom, but the expectation of fear and the surprise that follows when people realize that we aren’t all panicking in Taiwan – as if the calm we exude in light of unprecedented threats is a symptom of our ignorance of the facts before us.”
“Threats from China are nothing new. They have been a part of my life, my parents’ lives and their parents’ lives for as long as almost anyone in my family can remember. In fact, Taiwan has been under threat by the People’s Republic of China for nearly 70 years. The three Taiwan Strait crises are proof of that.”
A Texas jury ordered incendiary radio host Alex Jones to pay a combined $49.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting 10 years ago. Jones’ legal troubles aren’t over by any means: he faces two more such trials.
One of the parents, Scarlett Lewis, even had to testify that her son “Jesse was real. I’m a real mom.”
“It’s an unthinkable statement for a grief-stricken parent to have to make,” wrote Nicole Hemmer, “testifying that her 6-year-old son, murdered while he sat in school, had actually lived, and that she was the woman who had given birth to him and raised him for the too-few years he was alive. But that was the testimony Scarlett Lewis gave this week at a hearing to determine damages against Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and media personality.”
“After 20 children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Jones began to spin lurid conspiracies that the shootings never happened and that the shattered families were simply actors. The conspiracy triggered years of harassment as conspiracists targeted the mourning parents, who have had to hire security to protect themselves.”
But as Hemmer noted, Jones is not a lone fringe player in the media world. He is “part of the right-wing power structure, from his interviews with soon-to-be president Donald Trump to his alleged role as an organizer at the January 6 insurrection.”
“More than that, many in the Republican Party and conservative movement increasingly sound like Jones, with talk of false flags, crisis actors and pedophile rings now a mainstay of right-wing rhetoric. And while the Trump presidency opened the door for the mainstreaming of Jones, it’s important to understand how ripe the GOP was for Alex Jonesification.”
In Dallas, the Conservative Political Action Conference gave a warm welcome to Hungary’s autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“The audience cheered him on during his blistering attacks on abortion, immigration, LGBTQ rights and more,” Julian Zelizer observed.
“The illiberal and anti-democratic elements of Republican politics, which flared during the Trump presidency, are alive and well. As Orban’s popularity indicates, the profoundly anti-democratic strains that have been shaping the GOP keep getting stronger, not weaker…”
“The talk comes on the same week that several election deniers, as well as participants in the January 6 insurrection, won in the primaries. The assault on the 2020 election continues to be a unifying theme in Republican circles. Even if some Republican voters are tiring of Trump, his rallying cry animates much of the electorate.”