Shitty New Iowa Abortion Law Is Why Republicans Keep Winning
This Friday, surrounded by children and with a big, stupid grin on her face, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed away the right to have an abortion.
The new law, which will likely be overturned by the courts seeing as how it is very illegal and unconstitutional and every other law like it already has been turned over by the courts, bans all abortions after six weeks. A time when a person may just be discovering they are pregnant, a time when people who are very bad at science claim that a "fetal heartbeat" indicates some kind of viability, when it does not even constitute a fully formed heart.
Why would they do this? Why, oh why, would they bother to pass a law they know is going to be found unconstitutional by the courts anyway? Why pour all that effort into something that isn't going to happen for them until someone on the right side of Roe retires or keels over dead?
They do it because here is what ends up happening: Those who hate abortion get jazzed and feel like their representatives share their values and are listening, and those who are maybe more neutral on the subject simply blow it off because whatever, they're just fighting for what they believe in and it's going to be overturned by a court anyway. You're all worrying over nothing.
But we're not worrying over nothing. Our reproductive rights are under assault and that's terrifying. We keep coming closer and closer to losing the right to choose.
They do it because they know we are terrified and that we are going to exhaust ourselves spilling pages and pages of virtual ink fighting against an issue that won't be an issue as soon as it gets to the court. That's why I'm not doing that right now. Obviously this is disgusting and horrifying, but I'm tired of writing the same articles over and over again about why it's disgusting and horrifying. Is there anyone here that doesn't know why, at this point?
They do it because, in comparison to six weeks, in comparison to likely losing the right to abortion altogether, those 20-week abortion bans being passed in other states -- though also unconstitutional and likely to be overturned by courts -- seem reasonable, maybe even luxurious.
They do it because they want to assert control over the Overton Window, because they are negotiating, and in negotiating, you always ask for more than you are willing to settle for.
The Right has asked for a lot in the past few years. They have demanded a wall. Whether or not they actually get their wall is of no consequence to them, it's the rallying for it and demanding of it that gets them going. It's the understanding that Donald Trump is trying to make that happen for them that keeps their rotten little spirits up. Will it actually result in them getting jobs that pay a living wage, or being "safer"? Of course not. It will do literally nothing of the kind. But Donald Trump tells them it will, and to them that at least is something. It's a clearly defined goal, and support of this goal, whether or not it will ever happen, lets voters know where their politicians stand.
Democrats do not play these "reach for the moon, maybe you'll land in the stars" kind of games.
Generally speaking, on most issues, Democrats play defense rather than offense. We don't elect Democrats to do things, we elect them to not do things, to be a bulwark against all the really bad stuff Republicans want to do. We elect Democrats to not erode our freedom of choice (too much, in the states that are cool with that), we elect them to not build the wall, we elect them to not pass Right To Work laws, we elect them to leave LGBTQ people alone, we elect them to not lower taxes on the rich, we elect them to not lose the Affordable Care Act, itself a compromise, we elect them to not do things that make the country less safe for people of color.
Democrats operate under the assumption that the real battle to be fought is the one in the middle, to win the hearts of centrists who could go either way, and who, ostensibly, are put off by extremes. That the best way to win their votes is to come to them, rather than to fight to change their minds.
As much as it seems like this strategy should make sense -- no one is promising anything they can't actually deliver, and it should, hypothetically, reel in the greatest number of people by not putting anyone off, it should make them seem reasonable and palatable to the average moderate who could go either way -- what ends up happening is that this low-balling puts them in a position where they have nowhere to negotiate from. The end result of all of this is that the Right is more able to define what the "middle" is than we are.
The end result is that we are constantly playing defense, and that becomes increasingly harder and more exhausting to do when you're being hit on all sides. I'm not saying we have to go on offense all the time, but having things to cheer for while they have to exhaust themselves trying to explain why the people cheering for those things are "wrong" and drag out the same arguments against them again and again could give us a bit of an edge. It's more exhausting and soul-sucking and demoralizing to be outraged than it is to be the ones cheering for something they can't wait to see happen. It's also a lot more thrilling to cheer for the thing you actually want than it is to try to muster up a cheer for a thing you know is a compromise that's going to get compromised even further down the line.
Granted, with an issue like abortion, it would be hard for us to come up with the "opposite" of a Heartbeat Bill. I don't quite know what that would be, although I am certainly open to ideas. Maybe right now would be a good time for the legislature in a more Democratic state to shoot for the moon and push to pass a bill subsidizing all abortions in the first trimester, or eliminating some gross anti-choice law put there previously by conservatives. At the very least, push a damn bill we can all get excited about. Restore the balance. Put them on defense and let us cheer. We need to take control of the conversation, and we need to be negotiating from a place of strength and belief in our ideals rather than a place of weakness and "Mother May I" and worrying about whether or not people are "ready."
They're clearly not worried, and it's working out for them.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse