By Dick Polman
In a red Ohio referendum this week, forced-birth reactionaries got blown out by a whopping margin of 430,000 votes. No word yet on whether Roe v. Wade killer Donald Trump has aspirationally asked Republican election officials to find 430,001 votes.
To fully appreciate what just happened in Ohio – where an anti-abortion ballot gimmick was crushed, 57 percent to 43 percent – we first need to revisit the Supreme Court’s anti-Roe ruling.
The MAGA-buttressed majority, led by Sam Alito, said that the issue of abortion should be “resolved like most questions in our democracy, by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” Ultimately, “the people” should have “the power to address (this) question of profound moral and social importance.”
Be careful what you wish for, theocrats.
The forced-birth forces in Ohio soon realized they had a problem. Mainstream citizens had managed, via a massive petition campaign, to place on the November 2023 ballot a measure that would put abortion rights in the state constitution. The November measure seems certain to pass, because, like everywhere else in America, a majority of citizens support abortion rights. It also seems likely to pass because – this is crucial – the Ohio constitution has stipulated, ever since 1912, that the document can be amended if a simple majority of the voters say so. In other words, 50 percent plus one.
But the extremists in the Ohio Republican legislature didn’t like the idea of 50 percent plus one. They sought to rig the November rules – by scheduling an August referendum (August, when supposedly the pro-choicers would all be on vacation) that would raise the threshold for passage to 60 percent of November’s voters.
Clearly, the rule-riggers were scared of their own constituents casting ballots in a direct democracy process with rules established in Ohio 111 years ago.
And no wonder they were scared! Because ever since Roe was erased, abortion had been on the ballot in five states – and the abortion-rights majority had won all five. It happened in red Kentucky. It happened in red Montana. It also happened last August in red Kansas. It happened this spring, indirectly, in swing Wisconsin, where a successful state Supreme Court candidate campaigned heavily in favor of abortion rights.
If you’re tempted to ask whether Republicans might wake up and realize that their crackpot crusade to control women’s bodies via government fiat is political suicide, the short answer is: They won’t.
They’ll tell themselves that the wipeout in Ohio last night was just a speed bump. (Ohio’s right-wing secretary of state said on Fox News: “The all out assault is coming from the radical left…the war continues.”) They’ll dismiss mainstream opinion as “the radical left,” because it’s comfy inside the batshit bubble. They’ll tell themselves that just because 57 percent of the Ohio voters (in a massive turnout, especially for the dog days of August) rejected their attempt to rig the November rules, that surely they can somehow still win a majority in November. This despite the mountain of evidence that women under age 45, in particular, are furious about Roe‘s erasure and the ongoing right-wing assaults on bodily autonomy.
Fine. Here’s hoping they keep it up. There’s arguably no better way to galvanize the Democratic grassroots in advance of the 2024 presidential election, to unite centrists and progressives in a common cause, and to buoy the only party that still believes in American democracy. Hey, the fight against home-grown fascism needs all the help it can get.
So put your hands together for Sam Alito, who authored the opinion erasing Roe. He said that the people, not the courts, should have the ultimate say about abortion; indeed, he said, “Women are not without electoral or political power.” True that, theocrat.
Be careful what you wish for.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at [email protected]