The U.S. Midterm Elections Show Abortion is Still the Issue

By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard

Abortion rights supporters gather outside the Michigan State Capitol during a “Restore Roe” rally in Lansing, on September 7, 2022. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

In the United States there is no workers’ party that could challenge the Democrats and Republicans. The two-party system has become even more institutionalized.

Consequently, in elections there is no way to weigh the political strength of the working class versus the capitalist parties.

With that caveat, what can we discern about the results of the recent midterm elections?

First, there was no Republican massive “wave” in the elections, as most corporate media pundits had predicted.

What prevented this “wave” was something the media talking heads got wrong, and the pollsters missed because they didn’t ask the right questions: that the right to abortion became a deciding factor limiting Republican gains or defeating them.

The question was directly posed in referenda in five states, where the right to abortion was affirmed, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in June to repeal the right to abortion nationally that was affirmed in the Court’s own 1973 decision granting that right.

In three states, constitutional amendments to make abortion legal were passed.

In two other states amendments were proposed to prohibit the right to abortion.

In the first category were Vermont, California and Michigan.

In Vermont the amendment was to affirm the right to personal reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to abortion and contraception. This was passed by 72 to 23 percent.

In California the right to abortion and contraception was on the ballot, which passed 65 to 35 percent.

In Michigan the amendment was to affirm reproductive freedom in all matters related to pregnancy, that also includes the right to contraception. This was passed 57 percent to 43 percent.

That these amendments included the right to contraception was important because some of the six far right Justices on the Court who voted to repeal the right to abortion raised that they would like to consider making contraception illegal.

In the second category were Montana and Kentucky.

In Montana the prosed amendment would criminalize doctors who didn’t make every effort to save the life of a fetus where there was an attempted abortion, or after any birth, even if the woman’s life was in the balance. This amendment was defeated by 53 to 47 percent.

In Kentucky, the amendment was to reject the right to abortion, which was defeated 52 to 48 percent.

What makes these votes important is that both states are solidly Republican, which means that many Republican women voted against the amendment.

The vote in Montana and Kentucky reaffirmed a vote in August in Kansas, another solidly Republican state, where there was a referendum on an amendment stating there was no right to abortion, which was defeated 59 to 41 percent.

What these votes indicated was that abortion rights were the issue that persuaded enough white Republican women to prevent a massive Republican “sweep.” And in many instances resulted in Republican defeats.

The result in the 100 seat Senate was 50 seats won by the Democrats, and 49 by the Republicans. In one state, Georgia, neither candidate won a majority due to a small libertarian capitalist party winning 2 percent. There will be a runoff election on December 6, which will decide if the Democrats win a one-person majority, or if there is 50-50 split, as is the case now.

The Republicans won a slim majority in the House.

The present situation in Congress of deadlock will continue for the next two years, and that a presidential veto of any law cannot be overcome.

Kevin McCarthy, the current minority (Republican) leader of the House, had promised – expecting a Republican “wave” – that the Republicans would punish the Democrats in 2023. What will happen with their slim majority remains to be seen.

There is disarray among the Republicans. One thing of note was that almost all the Republicans who were endorsed by Trump lost. This has led to charges among some Republicans and in the far-right media that Trump was to blame for the defeat of the “wave” expected by Republicans.

Almost all the mass media is owned by six companies, including Rupert Murdock’s media businesses. One is the Wall Street Journal, which ran an editorial with the headline “Trump is the Republican Party’s biggest loser”.

Another Murdock paper is the New York Post which made fun of Trump in a cartoon depicting him as Humpty Dumpty, under the headline “Don (who couldn’t build a wall) had a great fall – can all the GOP’s men put the party back together again?”

Murdock’s Fox News, having previously praised Trump and championed all the far-right conspiracy theories, spent the day after the elections featuring commentators who blamed Trump for dragging the whole party down.

On November 15, Trump announced he was running again for the Republican presidential nomination for 2024. Given Trump’s hold on the party’s base, will this force Republican politicians and far right media to fall in line?

Or will there be a challenge to him from other Republicans, for example Ron DeSantis, who did sweep the vote for his re-election as governor of Florida? Time will tell.

A majority of Democratic voters are against Biden running again in 2024.

The Democrats under Biden failed to put up a challenge to the Republicans on key issues.

One of these was Black rights. The issues raised by the 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations disappeared. Far from de-funding the police in favor of funding central social needs, the Democrats championed increased funding to fight “crime,” increasingly defined by both parties as crime by Black urban youth.

Police killings of Blacks has continued with very few convictions of guilty cops or even charges. Prosecutors simply report these killings as justified because the cops claim they feared for their lives.

BLM raised that there is institutionalized systematic racism in the U.S. from colonial times up to the present.

Republicans ran against this, claiming it denigrated America. In states where they had power, they waged campaigns to censure books in schools that explained this, including the book “1619” based on a series published in the New York Times, “The New Jim Crow” and others. They also targeted anything said to be “Critical Race Theory” in higher education, i.e. anywhere scholars published explanations of institutionalized systematic racism.

The Democrats utterly failed to counter this Republican campaign. Their silence spoke eloquently on Democrats’ real position. Democrats also failed to wage a strong campaign nationally against Black voter disenfranchisement in Republican states. As a result, many Blacks became disillusioned with the Democrats. Many didn’t bother to vote and some voted Republican.

This was illustrated in the fact that Republican DeSantis won in Dade County, Florida, which has a large Black community and a majority Hispanic population – another people of color. Puerto Ricans especially switched sides. In the past the county voted heavily for the Democrats.

Republicans also made inroads among Latinos nationally, for the same reason: their needs were ignored by the Democrats. There is also the fact that the Biden administration continued Trump’s policies opposing immigration from Central America of people attempting to flee violence and poverty, largely imposed by U.S. imperialist practices.

On climate change, despite claims by Biden that the U.S. is leading the world, his administration has adopted policies that increase greenhouse gas emissions. Biden has authorized many projects to step up fossil fuel development including drilling for oil and fracking for natural gas.

Democracy Now! reported at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, that there are pavilions set up by fossil fuel companies pushing their wares, and 600 fossil fuel lobbyists circulating.

Amy Goodman reports: “A major split remains between wealthy nations and the Global South on what financial responsibility larger polluters should take for causing the climate crisis. A group of more than 130 developing nations and China have proposed establishing a loss and damage fund to provide money to countries impacted by the climate crisis, but the United States has said it would not support a, quote, ‘legal structure that is tied to compensation or liability.’’’

That is the position the U.S. has taken for years.

Many would be surprised that the first COP meeting to mention fossil fuels in its written conclusions was at the previous one, COP26. The U.S. and the fossil fuel lobbyists are working to eliminate from the current COP27 text any mention of fossil fuels.

Many young people who seek to fight climate change have turned away from the Democratic Party.

The Republicans flipped four districts in New York state from Democratic to Republican, which elected members of the House. Democracy Now! quoted analysts who put the blame for this on the state Democratic Party for aiming their campaigns including funds not against the Republicans but against progressive Democrats.

In the same vein, the Israeli government’s lobby in the U.S., the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), campaigned with funding against progressive Democrats who criticized Israeli treatment of Palestinians, in primaries where they ran against establishment Democrat candidates. AIPAC supported 100 Republicans in the midterms running against progressive Democrats.

One generalization of the elections is that factionalism between the two parties, as well as within both, was brought to the fore.

Another is the lack of a fighting labor movement that is politically independent of the Democratic Party.

Working people are stuck between the two parties. Black, Brown, and Native people as well as white workers will continue to be divided and weaker so long as this remains the case.

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