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Fri May 13, 2022, 08:02 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Overreach And Backlash

Of all the different types of cycle that exist in politics, the one of overreach and backlash is one of the most interesting. We may be about to see one of these cycles happen in very accelerated fashion (since it usually takes years or even a few subsequent elections to fully materialize), although since we're at the beginning of the cycle it is impossible to now know how it will all play out.

This cycle began with the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito which would entirely overturn Roe v. Wade and send the question of abortion back to the state legislatures to grapple with. Conservatives have had this as a goal for at least four decades, so it was seen by many as the last step on a very long road.

But it's not a last step at all, because it will usher in an entirely new era of each state choosing what laws to accept when it comes to abortion. And like it or not, the whole "laboratories of democracy" theory will play out -- some liberal states will have extremely liberal abortion laws, some conservative states will have Draconian laws against abortion, and other states will choose some sort of middle route. This process has not only already begun, it has actually been going on for a long time, as states anticipated the possible end of the Roe era.

Republicans now have the "dog who caught the car" syndrome, though -- they have achieved their overarching goal and are now left unsure what exactly to do about it or what comes next. All of a sudden all those state-level laws are not just going to be vehicles for political posturing any more, they are going to directly affect women's lives. All of a sudden, things have gotten very real, because the courts will no longer save them from the worst of their own excesses. Their rhetoric is now going to become a new reality, in a matter of weeks.

This is where the overreach is already happening. Back when Republicans tried to pass antiabortion laws that they thought might stand a chance of being acceptable to the Supreme Court's interpretation of Roe, certain safeguards and limitations were written into the laws. Things like exceptions for rape and incest victims. Or bans on charging the women seeking abortions with violating any laws.

That was then, this is now. Now more and more states aren't even bothering with rape or incest exceptions, and some would even do away with the exception for saving the life of the mother -- meaning a pregnancy that threatens the mother's death cannot be aborted even to save her life. Louisiana's legislature just contemplated (and then stepped back from the brink of) passing a law labelling all abortions "homicides," which would have meant not only the doctor but the woman seeking the abortion could have been charged and thrown in jail for doing so.

These are extreme laws, but they all follow from the central idea that if aborting a baby is "murder," then how can you have any exceptions which legally allow it? If you start with that moral position (as many Republicans do) then morally the rest follows.

Red states are currently in a frenzy of lawmaking, and to some extent they're each trying to outdo each other in their condemnation of abortion. They no longer just want to restrict it, they want to outright ban it. Restraint and consideration for nuance is being left by the wayside. But, as mentioned, these are no longer just "messaging" laws passed to entice the Supreme Court into paring Roe back anymore, they are going to be reality in these states, as soon as July.

Abortion is, of course, a polarizing political issue. Many support abortion rights wholeheartedly and many condemn it without exception. But there is a huge mass of people in the middle who have somewhat mixed feelings over it. This is where the political messaging war will be fought, this summer and this fall.

Republicans are hoping mightily that this battle doesn't even materialize, so they can just sweep the whole subject under the rug and run the campaign against Joe Biden that they were planning on running. "Nothing to see here, folks, let's talk about inflation instead," in other words. Or they're going to try (as they're already beginning to) to paint Democrats as the "extremists" on the issue, by pressing Democrats to state what limitations on abortion they support -- and then turning around and accusing: "Democrats want abortion-on-demand right up until labor starts!"

Democrats are going to be pointing out the fact that the Republican Party now clearly stands -- and has for a long time -- for abolishing all abortion nationwide. "They will not be content with banning abortion in red states, they are going to do so everywhere, first chance they get!" will be the line of attack. Democrats will also go after the extreme nature of the state laws either being proposed, passing, or sitting dormant on the books already.

Democrats have the advantage here, since what they are warning against is indeed the reality of the situation, whereas what Republicans are warning about is nonsense that no Democratic politician supports. But having the truth on your side doesn't always mean you win the messaging battle (see: Donald Trump's entire term of office).

The key demographic here -- the battleground where this will mostly be fought out -- isn't just women. The real key is suburban women. Because suburban women know all about abortion. My uneducated guess is that the vast majority of all suburban women have personal experience with abortion, either firsthand or through someone they know. Whether in high school or college or through friends or coworkers, most of these women have at least seen someone they know go through it. It is personal to them, no matter their beliefs about it.

These women think about abortion in the context of: "What would have happened to that girl if it hadn't been available -- her life might have turned out radically differently." They also think about it in the context of their own daughters.

Republicans have recently had an enormous attrition problem with suburban women, pretty much ever since Donald Trump took office. Democrats have capitalized on this, but everyone knows it might just be a temporary effect -- they might all go back to being reliable Republican voters if Trump's name is not on the ballot. The GOP thought it had made inroads by fearmongering over schools ("Your children are being brainwashed by lefties!" ), but this could now be at risk.

We can probably expect to start seeing more articles exploring this, which take the time to ask some suburban women what they think of Roe being overturned and whether they'll be voting Republican in November. Because in their rush to outdo each other, the state-level Republicans are in the midst of a rather large political overreach.

Democrats have already started pointing it out. Senate Democrats released a new ad this week that puts the issue front and center. It's a pretty simple equation to draw -- a vote for Democrats is a vote to preserve women's rights, while a vote for Republicans is a vote to burn down women's rights. Similar ads will soon be appearing in races all over the country, assumably.

Will a backlash against Republicans materialize at the ballot box in November? No one can say, at this point. Will it be big enough to save Democrats in the midterms? Again, it is impossible to say. But it is a whole lot more possible that Democrats might not be in as bad a position heading into those midterms now than they were before that opinion leaked. Because, once again, these are no longer just "messaging" laws being passed. They will have real-world consequences, starting this summer, and some of those stories are going to start being told by the media. Women will have the chance to see the results of this Republican overreach before they vote. It is no longer a hypothetical exercise, it will be reality.

But enough future speculation, let's take a look at the week that was in politics. America passed a grim milestone this week, reaching one million COVID deaths. There is a slow surge in cases happening, but so far it appears not to be anywhere near as bad as Omicron or Delta were, which is good news.

Senator Rand Paul pulled one of his signature hissy fits by singlehandedly blocking a new round of aid to Ukraine. Remember when Republicans were all incensed that Joe Biden wasn't sending military aid to Ukraine fast enough? Yeah, those were the days.... The bill will pass next week, but the delay might interrupt the pipeline of aid, which would all be Rand Paul's fault.

We were heartened to see that the punk group Pussy Riot successfully escaped Russia and are now planning on touring, outside of Vladimir Putin's petulant reach. Also to see First Lady Doctor Jill Biden meeting with Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska in a surprise Mother's Day visit to Ukraine -- because it is so good to see an American presidential wife care about people other than herself once again, obviously. But the most heartwarming news from the region this week was seeing bomb-sniffing dog Patron getting a medal from Volodymyr Zelenskyy and then falling asleep at his own press conference.

In primary season news back here at home, a Trump-endorsed candidate lost in the Nebraska governor's contest, while Trump's pick in the Pennsylvania Senate race appears to be faltering. So there's that to look forward to, next Tuesday.

On the Democratic side, the biggest primary news this week was the announcement of the 20 entries for early-voting states in the 2024 presidential primary calendar. We wrote about this earlier in the week, if anyone wants to read a wonky dive into the contenders' chances.

In legal news, a new federal grand jury has already issued its first subpoena in its investigation into those piles of boxes Trump hauled off with him to his Florida resort -- you know, the ones that contained classified material? Meanwhile, the House January 6th committee issued subpoenas to five prominent Republicans (including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy), to compel their testimony about what they knew before and during the insurrection attempt against Congress. Seeing as how Republicans have now given up all pretense of being the "law and order" party, it is not expected that any of them will show up to answer questions under oath, however.

In economic news, inflation may have already peaked. Last month's number ticked down from the month before, the first such reduction since late last year. Nobody's sure whether this will continue or not, especially with the price of gasoline spiking back up, but it was a lot better news that "inflation continues to skyrocket," that's for sure.

And finally, in the "things we never in a million billion years thought we'd see" file, we have the news that Rick Perry is now apparently a champion for the therapeutic use of psychedelics. First it was John Boehner becoming a lobbyist for cannabis and now this? Rick "Oops" Perry, erstwhile Dancing With The Stars contestant and Republican presidential candidate, is now advocating for psychedelic mushrooms?!? There's really only one proper comment to make, upon hearing this news, so we'll just end with it and move on:

Wow, man. What a trip!

One historical note before we get to the current awards: Ten years ago this week, then-Vice President Joe Biden got out in front of his boss Barack Obama on the subject of gay marriage. Up until that point, Obama had not publicly embraced the cause (likely because he thought it was too controversial a position to take). But Biden forced his hand, and within days Obama also "evolved" into supporting marriage equality. We wrote about this way back in Friday Talking Points, Volume 210, in case anyone wants a stroll down Memory Lane. And yes, it has been only ten short years since many Democrats shied away from the issue and wouldn't publicly state their position, or else flat-out opposed gay marriage. Somehow it seems like it's been longer than that, but maybe that's just us.

This week we'd like to give a sort of "thank you for your service" Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Today was Psaki's last press briefing, as she moves on to a new (and more lucrative) career path in life.

Psaki was a breath of fresh air after the stench of all of Trump's press secretaries and the three-ring circus the pressroom became under them -- one of whom didn't even bother to hold a single press briefing during her entire stint. Psaki, on the other hand, brought intelligence and sanity back to the job.

Psaki is obviously whip-smart and feisty enough to take on all comers. This included all the right-wing media "reporters" who gibbered and whined all their pet conspiracy theories on a daily basis. She became known for her epic takedowns of such idiocy, delivering her signature "Psaki bombs" with delightful regularity. She even managed to charm the recipient of many of these Psaki bombs -- Peter Doocy of Fox News -- so much that today he issued his first tweet in two years' time, posing amicably with Psaki (who knew she was so short?!?) and wishing her good luck.

Psaki brought charm and wit to one of the toughest political jobs in Washington. She has a first-rate mind and a brilliant way with words, and we look forward to seeing her on television in a different role in the near future. As we look forward to also hearing that she finally has enough free time on her hands to learn how to play Wordle.

[Full disclosure: We admit that we have been previously accused of being partial to redheads, to which we plead nolo contendere. Ahem.]

For over a year of service to both Joe Biden and the nation, for being a breath of fresh air in the White House briefing room, for all those hilarious Psaki bombs, and mostly for bringing intelligence and honesty back to the job after so long, we hereby award Jen Psaki this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week on her way out the door. You will be missed, Jen, by millions.

[Congratulate White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the official White House contact page, to let them know you appreciated her efforts.]

While the Senate did vote this week on the Women's Health Protection Act, which would have not only codified Roe v. Wade but also swept aside all the unnecessary and punitive red-state laws restricting abortion access, and while one Democrat did not vote for it (Guess who? We'll give you precisely one guess....), in anticipation we already handed Senator Joe Manchin a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week last week for the same thing, so we're not going to repeat ourselves.

Other than that, however, we find we just weren't that disappointed by any Democrat this week. Of course, as always, we might have missed or forgotten about someone, so feel free to make your own nominations in the comments.

Volume 662 (5/13/22)

Happy Friday the 13th! Except for friggatriskaidekaphobes, who would obviously cringe at the use of that word "Happy," there....

Whether you're superstitious or not, though, here are this week's talking points for you. As always, use responsibly!

$30 a month internet

This was a piece of little-noticed good news this week.

"I'd like to thank President Joe Biden for getting the internet providers to agree to offer reduced-cost high-speed internet service to low-income households. Soon families who qualify will be able to get this service for thirty dollars a month or less. There will be a website -- GetInternet.gov -- which will allow people to easily see if they qualify and what providers are near them. Because as we all saw during the COVID pandemic lockdowns, if a child can't access the internet from home it drastically limits their ability to participate in modern life. For the first time, low-income families will be able to get high-speed internet for a reasonable price, due to President Biden's actions."

America's daughters will have less freedom than their mothers

This one we're taking directly from a letter Nancy Pelosi sent out to her Democratic House members, since it states the case for people to vote this year so well.

With this draft ruling striking down the nearly fifty-year-old precedent of Roe v. Wade and undermining the Constitutional right to privacy, Republicans would rip away women's right to make the most intimate and personal decisions. If handed down, this decision by GOP-appointed Justices would mean that, for the first time in our history, America's daughters will have less freedom than their mothers.

Republicans have made clear that their goal will be to seek to criminalize abortion nationwide. Republican state legislators across the country are already advancing extreme new laws, seeking to arrest doctors for offering reproductive care, ban abortion entirely with no exceptions, and even charge women with murder who exercise their right to choose. These draconian measures could even criminalize contraceptive care, in vitro fertilization and post-miscarriage care, dragging our nation back to a dark time decades into the past.

Make no mistake: once Republicans have dispensed with precedent and privacy in overturning Roe, they will take aim at additional basic human rights. At this pivotal moment, the stakes for women -- and every American -- could not be higher.

Overwhelmingly unpopular

Hammer this home, because Republicans are already afraid of it.

"Poll after poll after poll all show how overwhelmingly unpopular the Republican Party's position on abortion truly is. Something like two-thirds of the nation thinks abortions should be legal for all, perhaps with some reasonable and medically-appropriate restrictions. Republicans want to make abortion illegal for everyone, with no exceptions. They want to throw women and doctors in jail. The draft opinion that leaked cited one legal 'expert' from the eighteenth century who later presided over a trial where he sentenced two women to death for being 'witches.' It also -- astonishingly -- cited a legal 'expert' from the thirteenth century! That's right, Republicans don't just want to take us back to the 1950s, they want us to return to the 1250s. I wish I were making this up, but sadly, I am not."

Violence is not the answer

When they go low, don't follow them.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to denounce the firebombing of an anti-abortion group's office in Wisconsin this week. A group calling itself 'Jane's Revenge' took credit for this action and threatened more such actions across the U.S. They cited the antiabortion movement for its own violent tactics, which have indeed included firebombings and even assassination in the past. But two wrongs don't make a right. Violence from either side is absolutely unacceptable, period."

Poor Susan....

Got your pearls all ready to clutch? Then here we go!

"Senator Susan Collins who somehow believed all the Republican nominees to the Supreme Court when they lied their faces off to her about Roe v. Wade during their confirmation process is now in a tizzy because some of her neighbors are reminding her that she is somehow supposed to be pro-choice. Someone drew a very polite message in chalk on the sidewalk in front of Collins's house asking her to please vote for the Senate bill which would have codified Roe into federal law. Not only did Collins vote against this bill, she actually called the police on the people who had written her a message in chalk. She apparently demanded that the local public works department spend taxpayer money to wash off the free speech from the public sidewalk in front of her house, and that someone be charged with some sort of crime for doing so. We hereby award Senator Collins with the Snowflake Of The Year award, for her microscopically-thin skin."

More (Republican, of course) voter fraud!

Here we go again.

"Why is it that pretty much every time an actual case of actual voter fraud happening is reported, it turns out it was perpetrated by Republicans? You'd think there's some sort of pattern here or something, right? This week it was revealed that some GOP operatives in Pennsylvania were filling out voter registration cards with their group's own post office box listed as the address on it. Sounds like someone was getting ready to do some ballot-box stuffing in next week's Republican primary, right? I mean, I'm just sayin'... every time you hear about something like this, it almost always seems to be Republicans doing it. I wonder why that is...."

Hurricane gun

Hoo boy. It's been over a year since he's been in office, and the tell-all stories just keep right on coming!

"It seems that Donald Trump was somehow convinced that China had a 'hurricane gun' that they could use to create massive hurricanes and then somehow point them at the United States, in order to cause chaos. Trump asked about it several times, wondering if it was somehow an act of war that we could retaliate against. This is during the same period he was also reportedly wondering if he could use nuclear weapons against hurricanes. No word on whether he actually thought the Chinese guy with the hurricane gun operated it from his lair inside a dormant volcano or not, but at this point it seems Trump would believe just about anything, so it wouldn't really surprise me."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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Reply Friday Talking Points -- Overreach And Backlash (Original post)
ChrisWeigant May 13 OP
Demovictory9 May 13 #1
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Fri May 13, 2022, 11:43 PM

1. Red states are on a frenzy of book banning anti trans anti crt laws too

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