By JT Kopczynski and Kristen Day
Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Democrat legislators have balked at states choosing to regulate abortion. Democratic leaders, such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, have called these life-saving laws “sinful” and “extreme.” Senator Chuck Schumer has also said that these laws would permit “jailing women.” Democratic leaders and strategists believe certain states govern poorly because they are not pushing the extreme and unregulated abortion policy that the abortion lobby demands.
The reality is that, when it comes to abortion, Democratic leaders and strategists have a grave misunderstanding of the American electorate. While abortion advocates and Democratic legislators look at the recent successes in Colorado, Kansas, and Michigan as “victories,” they do not realize that most Americans do not want abortion without regulation. While Democrats use “reproductive freedom” as a euphemism for their extreme abortion agenda, they continue to advocate for abortion policies that do not reflect the will of the people.
While Democrats have been touting victories on abortion, Democrats significantly outspent Republicans on the issue, leading to Democrats winning in pro-life areas where they traditionally lose. The misleading messaging by abortion advocates led many people to be misinformed about the impact of passing ballot initiatives. Many thought ballot initiatives would ban abortion rather than allow the legislature to simply regulate abortion. Poor Republican candidate choices combined with Democratic spending in Republican primaries for the weakest candidates in Michigan and Pennsylvania also helped in what would have been a red wave.
In 2020, while Colorado voters defeated a 22-week limitation, Louisiana passed the “Love Life Constitutional Amendment” to keep abortion out of the State Constitution and in the hands of the legislature. Moreover, in 2022, Republicans took Florida by storm, and abortion did not seem to affect the re-election of Governors Kemp, Abbott, Noem, and more who signed abortion limitation bills. Further, Congressman Tim Ryan’s position on abortion arguable hurt his chances of winning in Ohio, where many pro-life Democrats, in particular, did not vote for him.
The outcomes of Colorado, Michigan, and California are not a mandate for unregulated abortion policy. We know this is true nationally, as 72% of Americans support regulating abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, including 60% of Democrats (Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll). We also know this to be true when we analyze state elections, which are more in tune with the will of the voters, as states are the lab work of democracy with their own cultures. Abortion extremism and overturning abortion safety regulations are losing in middle America and the south with massive losses of Democratic legislators over the past decade.
From 2010 to 2020, Democrats lost 751 seats in state legislatures (state house, state senate, and governorship). Moreover, between 2010 and 2016, Democrats lost 919 seats in state legislatures, so while Democrats gained some ground in states from 2016 to 2020 with the anti-Trump rhetoric, they are still in a huge deficit, a 751-seat deficit to be exact. Democrat gains came more from being against Trump than being for abortion or any other issue for that matter.
Given what has been happening, it only makes sense to ask this: why are Democrats losing at the state level? Is it because Democrats have become out of touch with the typical American voter?
According to polls from various years, that is the reason why. According to a CBS Poll in 2011, 54% of voters stated they did not believe President Obama shared the public’s priorities and that nearly half (48%) of voters believed he divided the country instead of uniting it (37%). This, in addition to extreme disapproval of the economy, shows that voters became disappointed by the Democratic Party, leading to a large voter turnout against the Democrats. This is important for Democrats because, according to the Brookings Institute (2011), the Democratic coalition is less homogenous than Republicans and is very shaky, meaning that establishing intra-party unity is especially important to help the party win.
Other polls have shown this too: for example, a poll from Washington Post & ABC in 2017 found that most Americans believe the Democratic Party is out of touch with the needs of ordinary Americans. A poll from The Hill (2022) also found that 54% of voters stated they want Biden and the Democrats to be more moderate in policies. Moreover, 61% of respondents agreed that Biden and the Democrats are “out-of-touch” with the average American and that they ought to focus less on catering to the far-left wing of the party and more on day-to-day needs of Americans, such as the economy and crime.
What it shows is this: the Democrat policies are not popular among people. Voter choices are reflective of this too. This is important to know because, as the saying goes, the public is the thermostat, and when policies do not reflect the needs or views of the average person, politicians will feel the pain. We can see this because, according to PBS (2022), suburban voters are starting to become Republicans. Current polls are also showing significant losses among suburban women and Latino voters.
This rings true even in liberal states such as New York and California. According to the Marist Poll, about two-thirds of New Yorkers believe abortion should generally be illegal in the last trimester, including 53% of Democrats and two-thirds of Independents.
Another example is California. According to a survey from the Rasmussen Report and Real Impact, while most Californians are pro-choice and disagree with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, most Californians also believe there should be limits on abortion. For example, 63% of Californians believe that the fetus has a right to life at six months. Moreover, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Californians believe that, after viability, abortion should only be allowed for unique circumstances. The survey also found that only 20% of Californians support abortion with no limits.
Even though most New Yorkers and Californians are against late-term abortions, the politicians of the states do not reflect this. For example, only six federal Democrats (three in the House, three in the Senate) voted in favor of a federal 20-week limitation on abortion in 2017, while 231 Democrats (187 in the House, 44 in the Senate) voted against it. Moreover, none of the six federal Democrats were from New York or California.
The policies do not reflect this either: both states have rallied around their states being safe havens for abortions, with Governor Newsom (D-CA) going as far as to call California an abortion sanctuary. Both states have also introduced state-level spending for abortion services and have pledged to spend hard-earned taxpayer money on out-of-state abortions.
These Democratic losses have had significant effects on state politics. Several examples can be found, such as in Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, and North Carolina.
In Arkansas, the state of former Democrat president Bill Clinton, Democrats maintained a trifecta from 2007 to 2012. Today, not only have the Democrats lost the trifecta, it is nearly a four-to-one margin between Republicans and Democrats in the house with just 18 of 100 Democrats left in the House and just 6 of 35 left in the Senate. When Bill Clinton was first elected, only 15 Republican legislators held seats in the Arkansas legislature.
Another case is with West Virginia: in 2008, the Democrats maintained a trifecta in West Virginia, Today, not only has the trifecta been lost, it flipped to the Republicans. Like in Arkansas, the loss has been significant: in the past decade, Democrats moved from a combined legislative majority of 107 of the 134 legislative seats to 16 of 134 today. Democrats are now outnumbered four-to-one in the House and hold only 3 seats in the Senate.
In Alabama, Republicans gained control of the state House and Senate in 2010 for the first time since 1874. Demcorats also had historic losses moving from 89 of 140 seats to just 36 today. Republicans still hold a trifecta in the state legislature, where there are approximately four Republicans for every Democrat in the House and the Senate combined.
In North Carolina, Democrats had a trifecta from 1999 to 2010, but in 2011, the House and the Senate flipped. Today, Republicans still hold a majority in the House and the Senate with Demcorats losing four more seats in the House and two more seats in the Senate. The House is only one seat away from a Republican supermajority.
All these states now have laws limiting abortion.
Democrats should be very concerned about the outcome of this election. There is always a post-election analysis of why we lost. Perhaps this year, Democrats will finally recognize the effects of extremism abortion and moderate on the issue. If history is any indication, they will continue to double down on policies that protect abortion providers instead of the victims of abortion.
Democrats will have to stand for something and make their case that their policies will protect women and provide a better future for families. Democrats also cannot continue to try to pass bills that are out of touch with the views of ordinary Americans, such as the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which would have allowed abortions without limits nationwide. If the Democrats remain out of touch with what most Americans believe, fewer people will vote for them, as they already have been. It also means that fewer Independents and moderate Republicans will choose to vote for Democrats, and that weakens Democratic opportunities.
This is not what Democrats should be striving for.
- Rasmussen Report & Real Impact, 2022 https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/partner_surveys/most_california_voters_support_limits_on_abortion
- The Marist Poll, 2019 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-marist-poll-overwhelming-majority-of-new-yorkers-reject-late-term-abortion-300820443.html
- CBS Poll, 2011 https://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/Poll_Obama_120911.pdf?tag=contentMain;contentBody
- CBS – Why Democrats Lost the House to Republicans, 2010
- Brookings Institute, 2010 https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/survey-says-loose-coalitions-within-both-republicans-and-democrats-in-the-united-states/
- PBS – 1 million voters switch to GOP, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/more-than-1-million-voters-switch-to-gop-raising-alarm-for-democrats
- Alabama State Legislature
- Alabama Flipped First Time since 1874
- North Carolina State Legislature
- Nancy Pelosi says that the laws are sinful:
- President Biden called Pro-Life laws ‘extreme’
- NCSL Data (See ‘Legislative Partisan Comparison Table’ below)
- Life Saving Laws (Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America)
- North Carolina 20-week ban
- Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll
- The Hill – States are the laboratories of democracy
- Women’s Health Protection Act (2021)
- Washington Post & ABC Survey – 2017
The Hill Survey – 2022