The news seems awful for Democrats, but in stark, political terms, maybe not as awful as it first appears.
The presumed overturning of Roe v. Wade is guaranteed to fire up the liberal Democratic base and put many Republican candidates on the defensive – at least here in New Jersey. In short, this could be the proverbial “shot in the arm” for a party plagued by high gas prices, a president with low approval ratings and the lingering memory of a far too close gubernatorial reelection win last year.
Look what happened Tuesday – beginning just 12 hours or so after the leaked Supreme Court opinion was publicized.
Democratic lawmakers from Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker on down fired off statements condemning the looming opinion and supporting women’s rights. A handful of protests were quickly organized.
Sure, this is what politicians do.
Yet at the same time, overturning Roe would represent something unique in American life – eliminating a right people, or in this case women, have had for close to 50 years, which is longer than many people in the country have been alive.
Expanding rights people never had is one thing; eliminating them is something different. That gets more attention.
As First Lady Tammy Murphy noted at a Tuesday night rally in Montclair, whatever the court does will have no impact in New Jersey. The state already has codified abortion rights into state law, which allowed Murphy to gloat a bit.
“Instead of hoping for the best, we have been preparing for the worst,” she said.
But this isn’t the whole story.
It can be risky to look too far ahead, but if the court’s leaked opinion becomes official, abortion rights would rest with the states. However, it would be possible for Congress to pass a nationwide ban superseding state wishes. That seems far-fetched – especially with Joe Biden as president – but it’s unknown what will happen, say, five years from now.
This makes elections critical to say the least.
And at Tuesday’s rally, House members Mikie Sherrill (pictured, above) and Donald Payne Jr. had the midterms in mind.
“The choice is incredibly clear in November,” Sherrill said, mindful of the Democrats’ pro-choice position.
Payne added, hopefully perhaps, “A sleeping giant has been woken up.”
It’s worth noting that while Dems up and down New Jersey were issuing indignant statements Tuesday, many Republicans were quiet.
A statement from Rep. Jeff Van Drew condemned the leak, but said nothing about the decision itself.
Bob Healey, who is seeking to challenge Andy Kim in CD-3, said he is “pro-life,” but that abortion policy should be what a majority of state residents want.
Top-level GOP candidates in such competitive districts as 5, 7 and 11, however, have been silent on the abortion news of Monday night.
This is a tough issue for Republicans.
All polling suggests that a majority in New Jersey, and across the nation, do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. Yet, the extreme right-to-life bloc is a key Republican constituency.
So, how do GOP candidates square that circle – especially when running against a pro-choice opponent? Up until Monday night, this was very much an easy to dismiss theoretical issue. Not anymore.
Now it’s an issue that has to be discussed.
Which is why, politically speaking, overturning Roe v. Wade may not be all that bad for the left.