If You’re Serious About Making Roe the Midterm Issue

Pro-choice activists gather at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 2, 2022. - The Supreme Court is poised to strike down the right to abortion in the US, according to a leaked draft of a majority opinion t... Pro-choice activists gather at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 2, 2022. - The Supreme Court is poised to strike down the right to abortion in the US, according to a leaked draft of a majority opinion that would shred nearly 50 years of constitutional protections. The draft, obtained by Politico, was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and has been circulated inside the conservative-dominated court, the news outlet reported. Politico stressed that the document it obtained is a draft and opinions could change. The court is expected to issue a decision by June. The draft opinion calls the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision "egregiously wrong from the start." (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS

I was looking over some Senate races last night and I was reminded that it’s going to be a real challenge for Democrats to expand their Senate majority this fall. They’ll be happy just to hold it. We’re not learning anything new to recognize that Democrats face a very daunting midterm cycle. But I want to address a discussion that evolved over the course of yesterday as Democrats and Democratic officeholders reacted to the news.

Few people were more outspoken than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) which is totally in character for her. She showed up at the protest outside the Supreme Court and she showed up on TV. She was in a fighting mood. I saw a lot of people saying, that’s what we need! And I agree. But I think there’s something else Democrats need even more: clarity.

Elected officials are inherently reluctant to get down to specifics. There are many reasons for that. And we’ll discuss them soon. I noted yesterday that if Democrats were able to move from 50 to 52 or 53 senators and hold the House they would be able to codify Roe into law. I can’t tell you whether it’s 52 or 53. But some basic head counting can settle that pretty quickly within the Senate Democratic caucus.

If the plan is to use Roe as the mobilization tool to hold the Congress in 2022 I guarantee you the way to do it is for the President to say right away that if the Democrats hold the House and pick up (for the sake of conversation we’ll say) two Senate seats that next January they’ll pass a law codifying Roe as it existed circa January 2021. That makes everything crystal clear. None of the opaque nonsense about what “the Democrats” can do if they’re “in control.” Control of the House and two additional senators. That mobilizes people. That gives a specific goal. It makes a clear promise. It can even be reduced to some simple catch phrases: “The House plus two.”

Again, the numbers might be slightly different. Definitely come up with a better catch phrase. But it has to be clear. It needs to be a specific commitment from the President and the congressional leadership. It needs to be now.

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Now, maybe you don’t want to put abortion rights at the center of the election campaign. Maybe you don’t want to tie your hands. But again, I guarantee that if your goal is to make abortion rights the central issue or even a central issue in the midterm, this is how you do it and no other approach will have a comparable impact. After that you definitely need to fight; you need to be aggressive; you need to be all those things. But without that clarity none of it will translate electorally.

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