Kansas Proves the Power of Roe and Reform

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While vote counting slowed overnight with about 96% of the Kansas anti-abortion referendum vote counted, “No” (pro-abortion rights) is steady at 59% of the vote. It is unlikely to tick down more than a point or two further, at most. This was considered a too-close-to-call race with the advantage to the “Yes” vote. When a result is this lopsided and this unexpected for most political observers it’s not only a political earthquake but a sign many political professionals have seriously mistaken the political environment. When there is a backlash as strong as the one against Dobbs and one party is as firmly tied to it as Republicans are here, clearly the opposing party needs to grab on to it with both hands. You jump right into the slipstream of that political tide.

We’ve been discussing how to do that for months. Democrats need to make the connection as explicit and tangible as possible. And the way to do that is with a firm Roe and Reform pledge, to pledge to pass a Roe law in January 2023 and suspend the filibuster rules to guarantee that that bill gets a simple majority vote. If voters choose to give the Democrats this specific election outcome — the House and two more senators — Democrats will pass this law. But that only works if everything is spelled out, a firm commitment with all the needed votes explicitly on board.

The Kansas vote shows us how unpopular Dobbs is. But that’s not all it showed. Kansans didn’t turn out to send a message about Dobbs or Roe. They turned out because with a single vote they could ensure that abortion rights remained protected in their state for the foreseeable future. The closest Democrats can get to duplicating that dynamic at the federal level is with a Roe and Reform pledge. You give us this and we will give you that. But there can’t be any ambiguity, no vagueness about the filibuster or hemming and hawing. Right now 31 of the 48 senators have committed. 15 are sort of, kind of there but haven’t been willing to make a clear commitment — thus short-circuiting the whole effort. There are two possible hold outs — King of Maine and Warner of Virginia. But they will get on board if their constituents apply pressure. Here’s the list of where everyone stands.

If they’re basically on board why won’t they just say it? Well, some of it is just SenateWorld, that instinctive resistance to making firm commitments, the myopia of thinking that what matters is the internal politicking of the Senate as opposed to the actual political world outside the body. I know specifically some of the senators and their staffs say privately, ‘Of course we’ll be there if it comes to a vote. But I don’t want to make it uncomfortable for colleagues who are more hesitant.’ In other words, everyone is basically on board but waiting for everyone else to take the plunge and thus in their collective dillydallying ruining the chances of a clear election message. Voters — you and your phone — can change this right now.

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