Readers on the Dobbs Backlash

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From TPM Reader DS

I was in college from 2002-2006 so the Iraq War for better or worse will always be one main prism through which I think about American politics. And one of the things that always amazed me most about the whole thing was that the neocons and armchair strategists had spent more than a decade obsessed with toppling Saddam Hussein, yet had absolutely no idea what to do the day afterwards.

I don’t mean that they had a plan that didn’t work—I mean it really seemed, in the spring of 2003, that they hadn’t even given a moment’s thought to what might happen afterwards or how to address the most obvious post-invasion problems. When I threw a party in my dorm I had more of a plan for cleaning up afterwards than these clowns did. I always wondered: what did they do in all those think tanks and war games for twelve years? Did they just high-five and fantasize about how awesome it would be to avenge the Bush psychodrama, and then adjourn for cocktails?

And now I wonder the same thing about the anti-abortion movement. The Republicans are getting absolutely steamrolled by the popular opposition to Dobbs and support for abortion rights. As you’ve pointed out I think, not a single GOP elected official anywhere seems to have any idea what to do or say. Is it really possible that the GOP had a 40-year legal strategy for overturning Roe—and the Supreme Court victory was the last page of the playbook? I’d have guessed not, but I am old enough by now to have seen this movie before.

My thoughts on this are twofold. The first is that the two are different inasmuch as the issues we’re talking about with Dobbs are political. From the point of view of its supporters, the implementation and effects are it are working out just fine.

The other is public opinion. Abortion rights have always been difficult to poll because many people both don’t like abortion and also want it to be legal. There’s a lot of game playing and self-delusion that takes places in the wiggliness between those two realities. But it is unquestionably true that abortion rights have been winning in the court of public opinion in a sort of inverse lockstep to the pace in which they have been losing in America’s actual courts.

A backlash of this sort has always been in the cards. But the intensity and consistency of the backlash is almost certainly greater today than it would have been a decade ago, and 20 and 30 years ago. In a way the restrictionists just got lazy and cocksure because they were moving from success to success in the courts. It’s also true though that for the true-believing restrictionists, they just want restriction. The politics is what it is. They’ll deal with that when they get to it. It’s more the Republican Party that seems to have been caught flatfooted in response to a fairly predictable situation.

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