Former Bush speechwriter warns Republicans may come to 'regret' the Texas abortion law
This week, Texas' draconian anti-abortion law went into effect, and the U.S. Supreme Court — in a 5-4 decision — let the law proceed. Far-right social conservatives in the Republican Party are delighted, as they are optimistic that the High Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. But one conservative who isn't celebrating is journalist/author David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. In an article published by The Atlantic this week, Frum warns fellow conservatives that their anti-abortion victories could lead to a major backlash against the Republican Party.
According to the 61-year-old Frum, the Texas law and the possible end of Roe v. Wade will bring about a seismic shift in the abortion debate in the United States.
The secret to successful abortion politics for Republicans has long been: talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. Texas Republicans just bet their future on actually proceeding with plans to surveil and police the state's women. Watch out.https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/09/texas-republicans-abortion-ban-backfire/619956/\u00a0\u2026— David Frum (@David Frum) 1630598188
"Pre-Texas," Frum argues, "opposition to abortion offered Republican politicians a lucrative, no-risk political option. They could use pro-life rhetoric to win support from socially conservative voters who disliked Republican economic policy, and pay little price for it with less socially conservative voters who counted on the courts to protect abortion rights for them."
Frum continues, "Pre-Texas, Republican politicians worried a lot about losing a primary to a more pro-life opponent, but little about a backlash if they won the primary by promising to criminalize millions of American women. That one-way option has just come to an end."
The Texas law outlaws abortion about six weeks into a woman's pregnancy. Because many women who become pregnant don't know that they're pregnant until after six weeks, the law effectively prohibits abortion in most cases — even if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. To make matters worse, the law allows private citizens to sue someone for $10,000 if they "aid and abet" an abortion. And abortion rights activists are warning that even an Uber driver who drives a pregnant woman to an abortion clinic could be sued for that amount.
Because of the Texas law and the Supreme Court's response to it, Frum predicts, abortion will be a major issue going into the 2022 midterms.
"Today, accountability has suddenly arrived," Frum warns fellow conservatives. "Texas Republicans have just elevated abortion rights to perhaps the state's supreme ballot issue in 2022. Perhaps they have calculated correctly. Perhaps a Texas voting majority really wants to see the reproductive lives of Texas women restrained by random passersby. If that's the case, that's an important political fact, and one that will reshape the politics of the country in 2024."
Frum adds, "But it's also possible that Texas Republicans have miscalculated. Instead of narrowly failing again and again, feeding the rage of their supporters against shadowy and far-away cultural enemies, abortion restricters have finally, actually, and radically got their way."
Countless critics of the GOP have argued that Republicans are pushing voter suppression bills because they know how unpopular their ideas are. But Frum speculates that even voter suppression laws may not be enough to prevent Americans from expressing their disdain for the Texas law at the polls.
"There's already compelling evidence that Texas Republicans understand how detested their new abortion law will soon be — not only in New York City and Los Angeles, but also in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth," Frum writes. "They took the precaution of preceding the nation's most restrictive abortion law with one of the nation's most suppressive voting laws…. But the Texas voting law only impedes voting; it does not prevent it."
According to Frum, "Republicans do best when the electorate is satisfied and quiet" but "face disaster when the electorate is mobilized and angry" — and the Texas law may result in a lot of angry, mobilized voters.
"Texas Republicans have just bet their political future in a rapidly diversifying and urbanizing state on a gambit: cultural reaction plus voter suppression," Frum stresses. "The eyes of Texas will be upon them indeed. The eyes of the nation will be upon them too."
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