It’s no secret that Democrats are facing tough odds in this year’s midterm elections. Not only is history on the minority party’s side, but recent polls have shown a national electorate that’s dissatisfied and frustrated with the status quo. Without a dramatic change, Democrats have reason to be pessimistic.
But what if there is a dramatic change? NBC News reported:
Not yet 24 hours after the publication of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn constitutional protections of abortion rights, Democrats at every level across the country were capitalizing on a potentially seismic shift in the political landscape that could upend what was to have been a bloodbath of a midterm election for an otherwise disillusioned party. Attacks on Republican candidates are underway, as are a flurry of pleas for donations. Ads defending abortion rights are rapidly populating social media.
Before, during, and after his presidency, Barack Obama popularized a simple, three-word phrase: “Don’t boo, vote.” The idea behind the maxim was obvious: When people are angry and disappointed, booing may be satisfying, but it doesn’t change anything. But when people channel their anger and disappointments into voting, it can make a difference.
With this in mind, Democrats wasted no time in denouncing Justice Samuel Alito’s maximalist draft ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, but the party’s focus was electoral, as much as it was legal.
President Joe Biden, for example, said yesterday morning, “If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”
At a Capitol Hill event soon after, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer added, “[T]o the American people I say this: the elections this November will have consequences, because the rights of a hundred million women are now on the ballot.”
Barack and Michelle Obama issued a joint statement yesterday afternoon, which concluded, “We’re asking you to join with the activists who’ve been sounding the alarm on this issue for years — and act. Stand with them at a local protest. Volunteer with them on a campaign. Join with them in urging Congress to codify Roe into law. And vote alongside them on or before November 8 and in every other election. Because in the end, if we want judges who will protect all, and not just some, of our rights, then we’ve got to elect officials committed to doing the same.”
Soon after, in a highly unusual move, each of the party’s largest entities — the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Attorneys General Association — issued a joint statement that urged Americans to “elect Democrats who will serve as the last lines of defense against the GOP’s assault on our established and fundamental freedoms.” They added:
“These elections will now determine whether cruel new restrictions on abortion will be put in place: whether states will be allowed to criminalize abortion and ban it even in cases of rape or incest. We want to make this very clear: Abortion is legal. It is your right. And the Democratic Party will fight to ensure this fundamental freedom remains intact. For voters, the consequences of the election for the future of our country have never been higher.”
The common thread tying each of these messages together is obvious: Democrats are telling voters that if they’re opposed to what Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices are doing to reproductive rights, the proper response is to vote for the party that supports reproductive rights.
Democrats can seize on this from a position of relative strength because they and the American mainstream are roughly on the same page. For years, polling has been consistent on public attitudes: Most of the country wants the Roe v. Wade precedent to remain intact. In fact, a well timed Washington Post-ABC News poll was released this week that showed Americans, by a nearly two-to-one margin, want to see Roe upheld, not overturned.
What’s more, there’s reason to believe Americans don’t yet realize what’s poised to happen. The week after the justices heard oral arguments in the Dobbs case, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found that nearly two-thirds of the public “either said they didn’t know how likely the court was to overturn Roe or said the court isn’t likely to overturn the precedent.”
In other words, a whole lot of Americans are in for a shock. It’s difficult to say with confidence how they’ll respond, but the possibility that they’ll be outraged — and ready to punish those responsible — is fueling new Democratic hopes for the fall.