The Missed Opportunity

Yesterday, when Michigan’s Supreme Court confirmed there would be an abortion rights measure on the state ballot in November, I was jarred to see how many people were not aware Senate Democrats have an opportunity – so far ignored – to accomplish basically the same thing on a national level. So far it’s the greatest missed opportunity of the election cycle. The reason is nothing substantive but rather a mix of misplaced caucus collegiality and electoral myopia.

All of us who follow American politics closely know that Dobbs, released on June 24th and previewed six weeks earlier, dramatically shifted the course of the 2022 midterm. In this very general sense abortion rights are on the ballot in November. But sending a message or generally electing people who support abortion rights is not the same as a firm commitment from one party to undo Dobbs and make Roe’s protections the law of the land in January of next year if a specific electoral threshold is met (the House and two additional senators). Americans’ confidence in the tether binding electoral outcomes to policy results has been greatly shaken over the last two decades. That kind of specificity is necessary. That kind of transactional clarity is necessary.

Notably the President himself has taken up making this pledge on behalf of the Senate, perhaps without quite asking them. Just days ago at the DNC he said: “Imagine if we just hold the house and add two more Democrats. We’ll codify Roe v Wade!” And yet, as a low key reference from the President, without a clear pledge from all 48 Senators, it’s simply not the same. It doesn’t have the prominence. It doesn’t have the credibility. It doesn’t have the forward-moving momentum of a cavalcade of public pledges. It’s not the same.

There’s still time.

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