Democrats need to adopt the GOP's ‘politics of fear’ to win 2022 midterms: journalist

Democrats need to adopt the GOP's ‘politics of fear’ to win 2022 midterms: journalist

MAGA Republicans have drawn plenty of criticism from liberals and progressives for their emphasis on fear-mongering, whether they’re claiming that liberals are trying to indoctrinate schoolchildren with critical race theory studies or falsely accusing progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota of promoting shariah law. The claims can be absurd — CRT isn’t even taught in K-12 schools, and Omar’s left-of-center, decidedly feminist views are the polar opposite of Islamist shariah-law fundamentalism — but that doesn’t mean that fear-mongering doesn’t work.

Democratic warnings about MAGA Republicans, on the other hand, can be brutally accurate. Republicans really did want to overturn Roe v. Wade — and got their wish — Republicans really would like to abolish Obamacare, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas really is saying that the Court should “reconsider” rulings that offer national protection for contraception and gay rights.

Texas-based journalist Ana Marie Cox, in an op-ed published by the New York Times on July 8, argues that Democrats should “lean into the politics of fear” when it comes to abortion rights — and they have a lot of material to work with if they know how to use it to their political advantage.

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Democratic strategists have been worrying that between inflation and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, their party could be facing a major red wave in the 2022 midterms — one that would rival the red waves that President Bill Clinton suffered in 1994 and President Barack Obama suffered in 2010. But Cox believes that the abortion issue could help Democrats in 2022 if they make it a priority.

Democrats, Cox notes, “face a base that feels betrayed and a set of wealthy, moderate voters in purple states who may not realize that their own rights are also on the line.”

“Democrats need both of these groups to stave off defeat in the fall, and fear can drive them to the polls,” Cox explains. “What should the Democrats tell them to be afraid of? A national abortion ban.”

Cox continues, “America after the fall of Roe v. Wade might feel like we’re living in the worst-case scenario, but anyone who values reproductive freedom has reason to panic about what could happen if Republicans take back power in Washington. GOP Congress members have already introduced bills that would criminalize abortion in various ways. They are only more emboldened now.”

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Over the years, many anti-abortion Republicans have slammed the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade as an attack on states’ rights. The argument went: Mississippi and Alabama shouldn’t be expected to have the same standard on abortion as Vermont and Massachusetts — it’s unfair from a states’ rights standpoint.

But critics of the anti-abortion movement have countered that so-called “pro-lifers” couldn’t care less about states’ rights; if they did, they wouldn’t be pushing for a nationwide abortion ban. And Cox points out that with Roe v. Wade having been overturned in the case Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women Health Organization, abortion opponents are pushing for a nationwide ban.

“Last month, former Vice President Mike Pence called for a national abortion ban,” Cox observes. “More to the point, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, has called it ‘possible.’ Recently, he hedged the prediction by stating an obvious fact: ‘Neither side on this issue has had 60’ votes to pass such a ban. Is that a phrase you feel comfortable hanging your future on?”

Cox warns that abortion isn’t the only right being threatened by far-right Republicans.

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“Plenty of progressive voters don’t need to be made aware of the danger; they are already terrified for the future,” Cox argues. “But everyone should be, not just those who might want or need an abortion in the future. The conservative legal theories, and the conservative jurists, that brought down Roe threaten marriage equality, privacy in the bedroom, even contraception. A law banning abortion by recognizing fetuses as humans with constitutional rights could criminalize in vitro fertilization.”

Cox continues, “The life-or-death pregnancy scenarios now playing out in red states could be repeated right next door, no matter where you live. To meet the urgency of the moment and save their razor-thin and often nonexistent hold on the Senate, Democrats must talk about that future, giving voters across the country, in every state, a reason to vote. Lives are on the line. At the same time, Democratic leaders have to understand that the politics of fear can run both ways.”

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