In June of this year, when the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision, a shudder ran through the country as the fifty-year precedent of Roe v. Wade was dramatically reversed.
Both parties immediately predicted that it would massively affect the midterm elections. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Why not?
In the fifty years of Roe, the political process could not work its healing magic and both sides dug in for a protracted war of the extremes. Neither side saw room for compromise. The right maintained that abortion was murder and would brook no exceptions no matter how the pregnancy occurred. The left regarded abortion as a fundamental human right and would not curb it at all.
So Republicans became identified with banning abortions even in cases of rape and the Democrats with late term third trimester abortions, positions equally incompatible with the national consensus on the issue.
As each side dug in and refused to budge, we saw the accuracy of Yeats’ poem “too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.”
But the court decision had kicked the matter back to state legislatures where the 50 democracies that comprise our union could do their work. The nature of the legislative process required compromise, forcing both sides to abandon their purist and extreme positions.
Since the public had long since embraced a nuanced, compromise view on the issue, it was plain that whoever moved to the center first could win.
But, sensing a political chance to make a big score, the Democrats held to their position of demanding abortion with no restrictions. Republicans, however, saw the writing on the wall and congealed around the compromise put forward by Senator Lindsey Graham(R-SC) of allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother and for any reason in the first trimester.
Remarkably, the right to life movement acquiesced in this change opening the door for a massive conservative victory.
Armed with the Graham compromise, Republicans hit the airwaves in September and blunted the Democratic attack ads by saying that they opposed a federal mandate and that they would support the Lindsey Graham compromise.
This argument totally disarmed the Democratic left since it relieved women of the worry that their own right to an abortion, in their home state, would be curbed.
The Graham compromise left no room for demagoguery and Democrats, who had hoped to find a way to distract voters from a bad economy were left stranded with nothing to say in the campaigns.
As their inability to grapple with our real national problems became evident in a series of debates the Democrats had no place to stand.
The Graham compromise had pulled the floor out from under the Democrats, and they were left hanging by the noose of a bad economy that had been around their necks all year.
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