It’s still a bit early. The dust from Election 2023 has not yet settled. But I don’t see a lot of silver linings in these results.
Ohio voting to put a radical abortion amendment into its state constitution is a disaster. I say that as someone who was unfazed by the electoral setbacks the pro-life movement experienced in the immediate aftermath of Roe’s repeal in 2022. In fact, what did surprise me was the gnashing of teeth by fellow pro-lifers over the immediate setbacks after the Dobbs ruling.
Maybe it is because I am in Connecticut. In the blue states, we are quite familiar with how 49 years of Roe’s legality has warped the consciences of our fellow Americans. OF COURSE there was going to be backlash in the immediate wake of Roe’s demise. OF COURSE pro-lifers would face setbacks in the near-term. Why was any of this a surprise? Why should it dampen our spirits in the epoch-changing celebration of Roe’s repeal? We are in this for the long haul.
It took us 49 years to overturn Roe. The country was changed, warped, in that time. It’s not the 1970s anymore, the decade in which we, or the generation before us, took up this fight.
Abortion and divorce are no longer the only two outliers in an otherwise good, God-fearing, nation. Other evils have since cropped up. We are deeply wounded as a people by the path that we wrongly took at the dawn of the Sexual Revolution, and that we have — against all common sense, logic, or humanity — continued to travel down in the decades since.
So the setbacks of 2022 should not have been a surprise to anyone. Just as it took us 49 years to overturn Roe v. Wade, it may take another 49 years — or more — to undo the enormous moral and spiritual damage that America visited upon itself during the Roe era.
And yet, even as I approach the post-Roe era from that mindset, I am taken aback by our defeat in Ohio. This is different than 2022. This is not a failure to pass protections for the unborn in what should have been friendly territory, as occurred last year. No, this is a massive forward advance for the license to abort children.
And yes, I know. The pro-abortion people massively outspent us in Ohio. The media was against us, as always. The Republican Party committed suicide-by-consultant, as always.
But, still. Ohio?
George W. Bush won in 2004 precisely because his pro-life and pro-family positions won him Ohio. Mitt Romney lost in 2012 precisely because his abandonment of social issues lost him Ohio. So for Ohio to turn on the unborn, as it did yesterday, is big. Bigger than any setback we suffered in 2022.
The closest recent analogy that I can think of is 2012. That was the year the Democrat Party dropped any pretense of social moderation, embraced same-sex marriage, abandoned religious liberty … and still won. If you are familiar with the modern history of the Democratic Party, as far back as FDR switching out crypto-commie Henry Wallace for everyman Harry Truman as his running mate, you know that 2012 was a turn, the year the party finally and fully embraced its far left. Worse, they won. The only other time the party did it, with McGovern in 1972, they lost in a landslide. By 2012, the country’s mores had been significantly altered.
Thus it was in 2012. So it seems in Ohio in 2023. And elsewhere.
Dobbs said it was returning the issue to the people, not to the states. Well, the people have a say on the federal level too.
Abortion was the deciding factor in Republican losses in Kentucky and Virginia. A year ago, the debate was whether Trump’s Senate picks, or Roe’s repeal, was responsible for the expected red wave being reduced to a red ripple. The truth was probably some combination of both. But abortion, not Trump, was the issue in these three states in 2023.
We Must Think Anew About Our Post-Roe Path
And so we must think anew about our post-Roe path. The legislative defeats in Virginia are particularly instructive in that regard. Gov. Glenn Youngkin thought he was blazing a path forward with his 15-week ban. It was a lose-lose. It did not win the election and, had it passed, it would saved a minimum number of lives. Do not misunderstand me when I say that. I will support any bill that will save any lives that are currently being snuffed out. But most abortions (at least here in Connecticut) occur prior to about 13 weeks. So the seeming moderation of a 15-week ban is a lose-lose in the sense that it does not win over voters as a supposed compromise position and the “thus far and no further” vibe with which its supporters sometimes promote it would leave most of the unborn still in danger of death. Particularly if its passage locked the issue in place and prevented us from making further progress.
Certainly, I am sympathetic to our friends on the national level, such as the Susan B. Anthony group, that want to lay down *some* marker for candidates for federal office. By definition, if you are running for federal office on a platform of abortion-is-a-states-issue, you are not pro-life. Because this position requires you to vote against federal protections for the unborn at a time when our federal government, and the Democrats, are doing all they can to increase abortion at the federal level. To not counter it with pro-life federal legislation is unilateral disarmament. Dobbs said it was returning the issue to the people, not to the states. Well, the people have a say on the federal level too.
But the defeat in Virginia must be absorbed and meditated upon. Does a 15-week litmus test still make sense? It seems to me that either embracing Nikki Haley’s realism — that we can’t get 60 votes for anything in the Senate, so why are harming ourselves for nothing — or Ron DeSantis’ all-in 6 weeks ban in Florida, are the ways to go. You can guess which of those two positions I prefer. But the 15-week ban, in the immediate wake of Virginia, strikes me as the least sensible of the three. A lose-lose.
Also. I know it’s not an apples-to-apples analysis, that Joe Biden will not be on the ballot for a year (if he makes it that far). But I have to say, in both 2022 and ’23, it’s stunning that voters can look at the state of our country under Biden and decide that what we need is more Democrats in office. But that is what they have given us. Two years in a row.
On To 2024
In Connecticut, local radio host Gary Byron bemoaned the low voter participation. “When will the Republicans come out?” he asked. Several towns in Connecticut flipped from red to blue.
Questions about election integrity linger. The media tells us that the video of the woman stuffing a ballot box in the Bridgeport primary is an outlier, that the unusualness of it actually proves its rarity. More likely, that video only saw the light of day because it was Democrat vs. Democrat. That is the only time these things ever come to light. Had the ballot-stuffing cost a Republican an election, the public might never have seen that video.
Finally, while the passage of a state constitutional abortion amendment in Ohio bodes ill for our efforts to keep beating it in Connecticut, the fact remains that we have beat it repeatedly. And, in the only Connecticut race reported by the press as being affected by battles over inappropriate material for young children, the good guy won. So there’s that.
On to 2024. To better messaging, better strategizing, and a Republican Party that won’t commit suicide-by-consultant.
Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut Action. He lives in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed on The Stream are solely his own.