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(957 posts)
Fri Nov 10, 2023, 09:14 PM Nov 2023

Friday Talking Points -- Women's Freedom Wins The Day

There were supposed to be three big political stories this week, but in the end two of them turned out to be duds. Donald Trump testified at his New York fraud trial, but without video or audio recordings of him answering questions under oath, the impact was significantly lessened. The other Republican presidential candidates (the five who qualified, at any rate) met for their third Republican debate, but it mostly turned out to be a snoozefest.

Tuesday night, however, more than lived up to expectations. The off-year elections which were held ended up as a big night for Democrats almost across the board. Put quite simply: abortion rights won. Big time. Everywhere.

In Ohio, the voters got to vote directly on the issue. A ballot measure to enshrine the same abortion rights as Roe v. Wade in the state's constitution passed with a very comfortable margin (over 13 points). Republicans trotted out all the lies they could think of to "explain" to the voters how evil this initiative was, to no avail. They spent millions and millions of dollars scaremongering their lies on television. They even changed the language the voters saw, in an attempt to scare them even further. Republican politicians repeated these lies over and over again. And you know what? None of it worked. The voters saw through the lies. They chose to stand for women's basic human rights. As they have in every single state where the issue has directly been on the ballot.

Incidentally, Ohio also became the 24th state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana for adults on Tuesday too. This was a milestone because even though 24 is one shy of being half of 50, it means that now over half of America's citizens live in states where weed is legally available to all. Sooner or later the politicians in Washington are going to be forced to deal with this emerging majoritarian reality and end the federal War On Weed forever. And now that Ohio has tipped the scales you can accurately say: "Most Americans live where marijuana is legal, and none of those bad things the prohibitionists predicted would happen have happened. The sky has not fallen. Anarchy does not reign. Sooner or later we'll be able to say all Americans can enjoy legal weed, but for the moment at least it is a clear majority of the population."

But back to the biggest issue of the night, and indeed the strongest issue in politics for Democrats at the moment. Abortion rights weren't directly on the ballot outside of Ohio, but they were indirectly on the ballot in three other states. And abortion rights won the day in all three.

In Kentucky, popular governor Andy Beshear won re-election against a Republican who supported the state's Draconian abortion law -- which has no exceptions for rape or incest. Beshear made this a central focus of his campaign, putting the Republican on the defensive over it. And when the votes were counted, a Democrat easily won re-election in a very red state, by a five-point margin. In Pennsylvania, a state supreme court justice election was held and the candidate who supported women's rights beat the forced-birth candidate by over six points.

But the best news came out of Virginia, where Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin was going to show the entire Republican Party and the rest of the country how the forced-birth side could win -- by toning their language down and appearing to be reasonable on the issue. Youngkin was even talked about as a white knight who would ride into the Republican presidential primaries and save the day by snatching the nomination away from Donald Trump.

It didn't work.

Youngkin went from having his Republicans control one chamber of Virginia's statehouse to having Democrats control both -- because of the abortion issue, which was the dominant factor in all the legislative races. For the rest of his term in office, Youngkin will now have a completely Democratic legislature to deal with, which will completely shut down his conservative agenda in this very purple state. And nobody's talking about him riding to the GOP's rescue anymore, either.

The only big race Democrats lost was the governor of Mississippi, where the incumbent Republican won re-election against a second cousin of Elvis Presley. But abortion played no part in this, as Presley is an anti-abortion Democrat. When both candidates are on the same side of an issue, it simply doesn't matter to the election results, to state the obvious.

Abortion rights won big, and they won everywhere. That is the clear takeaway from the 2023 off-year election. And it puts the wind at Democrats' backs heading into 2024. Abortion ballot initiatives are being prepared in a number of states, so it will directly be on the ballot in at least some of them. And in the states where it isn't put to the voters to decide, it will still be a major campaign issue, whether Republicans want it to be or not.

Smart Republicans are trying to run away from the issue completely. They just don't want to talk about it, since whenever they do, they lose votes. But some in the Republican Party are tripling down on a losing issue in various ways, which should bring joy to all the Democrats' hearts who are running against them next year. Abortion is a winning issue for Democrats, and Republicans now know it beyond any shadow of a doubt. The forced-birth politicians are going to be playing defense from now on, while Democrats fight hard for women's freedoms against governmental overreach.

Some other good news from this election cycle was that there was a major pushback against the ultra-conservatives who managed to take over local school boards. In many places -- including the county in Virginia seen as Ground Zero for the book-banners -- Democrats reclaimed control of their local school boards and sent the extremists packing.

All in all, it was a great night for Democrats.

Neither one of the other big political stories of the week rose to much prominence, though. Donald Trump was on the witness stand on Monday, testifying in the business fraud case against him, his children, and his signature company. Trump knows he has already lost this case (the trial is being held merely so the judge can determine how steep a penalty to impose), and so he used the opportunity to attempt to try the case in the court of public opinion instead. He had to be admonished from the bench several times for treating the courtroom as a political rally, in fact.

Trump, as usual, said some wildly inaccurate things. Here's our favorite, from when he was answering a question about why he was too busy to pay attention to the business documents he was signing:

"I was so busy in the White House," [Donald] Trump said. "My threshold was China, Russia and keeping our country safe."

"Just for the record," [Assistant Attorney General Kevin] Wallace replied, "you weren't president in 2021?"

"No, I wasn't," Trump acknowledged.

Got that? He forgot he wasn't president in 2021. And they have the nerve to say Joe Biden's got mental problems!

Amusing nonsense aside, Trump's testimony just didn't have much impact. This was due to the fact that cameras are not allowed in the courtroom. The public didn't get to see and hear Trump blustering away on the witness stand, and as Trump himself will tell you, if it's not on television it isn't important to most people. This is only a civil trial, of course, meaning Trump is facing no actual jail time, but this case strikes to the heart of his "successful billionaire businessman" persona in a way all his other legal problems don't, so he is personally invested in the outcome. The prosecution rested its case after calling Ivanka Trump to the stand on Wednesday, and Trump's defense team will likely wrap up their side by mid-December. So maybe Trump will get a few lumps of coal in his stocking from the judge, just in time for Christmas.

The... (yawn)... third Republican debate... (zzzzz)... was held this week too. Personally, we watched the whole thing even though it bored us to tears. Nobody on that stage is going to be president, to be blunt. Or even the Republican presidential nominee. They've had all year long to slay the Trump dragon, and none of them has come close to doing so. Most of them aren't even trying -- they almost completely ignored the frontrunner during the entire debate, in fact. They did squabble among themselves a bit, with the biggest dustups happening between Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy (especially when she told him: "You're just scum" ), but two months from now (when the first primaries begin) nobody's going to remember any of it. We hate to admit it, but Trump might be right -- maybe the R.N.C. should just throw in the towel and refuse to hold any more debates? We certainly wouldn't mind, at this point.

In other political news, we are now one week away from another government shutdown deadline. So of course Congress took a long holiday weekend -- it's not like they've got important things to do, right?

The new speaker of the House is trying to prove his chamber can produce a real budget, consisting of all 12 appropriations bills, but he had to cancel the vote on several of these this week since his caucus is in such disarray. They can't agree among themselves just how extremist they want to make these bills, it seems. None of it is going to matter in the slightest, since the Senate isn't going to take a second look at any of these GOP messaging bills. The big question for next week is whether another continuing resolution can be passed, whether it will be "clean" (stripped of all the Republican poison pill nonsense), and how close to the deadline we'll get before it does pass. Oh, and whether the speaker manages to keep his job afterwards, of course -- passing a clean budget extension is what did in Kevin McCarthy, after all.

President Joe Biden visited an automobile factory this week, in something of a victory lap after the autoworkers' Union forced major concessions out of the "Big Three" automakers. This was especially sweet because Biden spoke at a factory that was being reopened -- the automaker had shut it down earlier this year but they've had second thoughts and will be cranking out new cars there once again. The president of the U.A.W. still hasn't endorsed Biden for president yet, but it seems like a foregone conclusion at this point.

While Republicans love to lie about Biden's record (as the candidates did during this week's GOP debate) by claiming he is waging some sort of "war on oil" or "war on fossil fuels," America actually just set a new record for how much oil was pumped out of the ground in the last month that we have numbers for. We're now producing more oil than was produced under Donald Trump, before the COVID pandemic hit the economy hard. So much for "Biden's war on oil," eh?

One very unsettling story broke this week, as it was revealed that mail containing a powdered substance was sent to multiple states' elections officials. In some of them, the substance tested positive as fentanyl. This is domestic terrorism, plain and simple, and it is dangerous stuff, folks. It needs to be forcefully denounced from politicians from both sides of the aisle.

What else? This week Trump showed once again how tenuous his grasp on reality is, at one of his appearances:

"We won, the last time, 50 states, think of it, 50 states," he told the Freedom Summit, outside Orlando, Florida. "We won every state. We then did great in the election. We got 12 million more votes or so... 12 million more votes than we got the first time."

It's not enough for him to claim he won, apparently, he's now deluded himself into thinking he won every single state. Anyone else exhibiting such a break with reality would be in a straightjacket in a rubber room by now.

Trump is not shy about talking about what he'd do if he becomes president again, and it is downright frightening. He would willfully weaponize the Justice Department against his political enemies (which includes plenty of Republicans, even some from his own first administration, who have gotten on his bad side somehow). He will rule the federal government as an absolute strongman. He is telling everyone right out in the open that he wants America to move as close to a dictatorship as he can manage, and the media is barely even covering it.

And finally, we end with a story that could grow to epic proportions in the future. For now, the feds are staying mum, but you've got to assume they've got all the client lists in their possession. Here's the story, which could become a major scandal if more details are ever revealed:

The Justice Department said Wednesday it is investigating politicians, military officers and government contractors for buying sex through a high-end brothel network operating in Massachusetts and the D.C. suburbs.

They charged three individuals with running the business, but "gave no further details" about the clients. Which, according to an affidavit, could run to "potentially hundreds of yet to be identified customers." So we will be watching for future developments in this story, that's for sure!

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear defied the odds and won another term this week, in a very red state. Here's the basic story:

Democrat Andy Beshear defeated his Republican opponent Daniel Cameron to win reelection as Kentucky's governor, according to the Associated Press, securing a stark victory in a state [Donald] Trump won by 26 points and beating back his opponent's efforts to tie him to an unpopular President [Joe] Biden.

In his victory speech, Beshear referenced abortion, an issue he aggressively attacked his opponent over in the campaign, and he framed the win as a "choice not to move to the right or to the left, but to move forward for every single family." He said his win sent a message "that candidates should run for something and not against someone... and a clear statement that anger politics should end right here and right now."

The results are also a blow to Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), both of whom endorsed Cameron, the state attorney general and a rising GOP star who tried to nationalize the race and remind voters of their party lines. He and his allies promoted an endorsement from Trump and attacked Beshear as a Biden ally who clashed with Republicans on culture war issues.

Beshear did indeed take on the GOP culture wars, most notably by campaigning heavily on abortion rights. One ad in particular was incredibly effective. This is a tactic that Democrats everywhere should be using in next year's election cycle, in fact:

Kentucky has a near-total ban on abortion, which took effect last year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated federal protection for the right to an abortion. An ad from the [Andy] Beshear campaign featured a young woman whose stepfather raped her when she was 12 years old.

"Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it's like to stand in my shoes," the woman said in the ad. "This is to you, Daniel Cameron: To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable."

That is exactly how Democrats should be talking about the abortion issue. Because it affects people's lives in an enormous way. For showing Democrats the most effective way to do so, and for his big win Tuesday night, Andy Beshear is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

This week, Senator Joe Manchin announced his retirement from the Senate. He won't be running for re-election in West Virginia next year, it seems. But he may have other things in mind instead:

I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.

He didn't mention them by name, but what he plainly means is: "I want to convince No Labels to nominate me for president and then run on their ticket." There are rumors that the No Labels people are leaning heavily towards running a moderate Republican for president, although they do plan on a split ticket. Would Manchin accept second banana? Would he agree to run for vice president instead? It's kind of hard to see that, given the size (planetary) of his ego and his sense of self-importance.

Whether he gets the No Labels nod or not, there are plenty of Democrats who are essentially saying "Good riddance!" to Manchin, since it would almost be easier to have an actual Republican in the seat instead of a guy who calls himself a Democrat but refuses to aid the Democratic agenda unless forced to.

But the loss of Manchin's seat to the Republicans becomes a foregone conclusion with him not even running. West Virginia is fire-engine-red, and no other Democrat is going to even have a prayer of winning the seat. With the Democrats now only having a 51-49 majority in the Senate, the loss of this seat means they've got to win every single other race in order to maintain control of the chamber.

Which is why Joe Manchin is once again our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 730 (11/10/23)

This week we've got one theme for all our talking points. The abortion issue is going to be the biggest arrow in the Democratic quiver next year, and every Democratic candidate should embrace the issue and place it center stage of their campaigns. We've already got plenty of evidence that shows how effective the issue can be, and how Democrats (for once) will be on offense while the Republicans are back on their heels trying to explain their extremism to the voters.

So here are just seven ways for a Democratic politician to speak effectively about abortion and women's rights and freedoms.


It's all about freedom.

"The abortion issue is very simple. Democrats want to protect women's freedom, while Republicans want to take away their freedom. That's it, in a nutshell. We want women to enjoy the same bodily autonomy and human rights that they had for half a century, while Republicans want to roll back the clock and force women to give birth against their will. The voters understand this, no matter how Republicans try to obscure this basic truth. They want to take away women's freedom, while we want every woman in America to enjoy the same freedom they had for 50 years, period."

Big government

Another theme that resonates particularly well with Republican voters.

"Republicans have nattered on about the evils of 'big government' for decades now, but in reality that's exactly what they want. They want male politicians to make the most personal decision imaginable. They want the government in the exam room with a woman and her doctor. We don't. We want women to make their own medical decisions about their own reproductive care. We do not think old men in politics should make those decisions for anyone. That's the difference -- they want government to control women, while we stand firmly for women's right to make their own personal medical decisions."

Slippery slope leads to total ban

Paint with a very wide brush, since they deserve it.

"Republicans are now trying to appear just a teeny bit more reasonable about the laws they want to enact. They talk about banning abortion after this many weeks, or that many weeks, and they sometimes even add in exceptions to their bans. But make no mistake about it -- the end of the road for them is a total ban on abortion. Look at the states where that is already true -- that is where your state could wind up with Republicans passing bans on abortion. They don't want to go just halfway. They are not reasonable at all. They want to totally ban all abortions, period. We are not going to let that happen if we have our say!"

Her rapist's baby

This one is visceral, but it's also true.

"Republicans want a woman who was violently raped to be forced to carry her rapist's baby to term. They want rapists to have more rights than women, in other words. Can any of us even imagine how traumatic it would be for a rape victim to endure nine months of pregnancy and then have to stare into her rapist's eyes every time she sees her child? We think that is inhumane. We stand strongly for the rights of rape victims. Republicans want to protect rapists' rights and force rape victims to have their rapist's baby. Consider that when you vote."

Freedom is not extremism

Republicans tried to take a different tack in Virginia, but the voters weren't fooled.

"Republicans are now trying to paint our position on abortion as the extreme one. Which is just ridiculous. We want women to enjoy the same freedoms they have enjoyed for half a century. Republicans want to strip those freedoms away. They think they can come up with some magic number of weeks and some magic exceptions which will disguise the fact that they want to take women's basic human freedom away. That is extremism, folks. They are the ones with the extremist position. It's pretty obvious, no matter how they try to flip the script. Freedom is not extremism -- taking away freedom is extremism."

Back to Roe

A very simple answer to the false charges of extremism.

"Republicans try scare tactics every time abortion is on the ballot, or forced-birth Republicans are running for office. They lie about Democrats' position, even sometimes saying we're for abortions after the baby is born. This is a vicious lie -- if this happened in any state in America, it would be classified as murder. Republicans make it sound like thousands and thousands of women carry a baby eight and a half months and then suddenly decide they don't want it and demand an elective abortion. This is nonsense. It does not happen. It is a lie. What we want is very simple. We want to return to the protections of Roe v. Wade and we want to end the power of Republican politicians to erode those protections in state legislatures. That's it. We want to go back to Roe, which is where America was for half a century. That's not a radical or extreme position to take."

The worst thing they can hear

This is an easy one. It fits nicely on a bumpersticker, even.

"The most terrifying sentence in the English language for the forced-birth Republicans to hear is a simple one: 'I am pro-choice and I vote.' They are especially scared of this concept because so many Republican voters agree with it. We have the power of the ballot box behind us, and that should make every anti-abortion extremist absolutely quake in their boots."

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