A Post-Dobbs, Pre-Codification Prediction

I’d like to make a strong political prediction:

Prediction: After our Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade with 2022’s Dobbs decision, and before US Congress codifies Roe, no political candidate representing any party, be it Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green or otherwise, who can be decisively linked to pro-life views, can win sufficient electoral college votes in the presidential general election to be elected President of the United States.

As we declared, with reasoning, on May 24, our 2022 campaign was pro-choice.

My hunch is that Dobbs has created a new political environment that we are only just beginning to understand. Part of that new reality is, I think, that the American backlash to Dobbs is deeper and stronger than many acknowledge, and that it may result in the legislative success of what has been tried ten times so far, but failed, in 1989, 1993, 2004, 2007 and in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021, and even in 2022, namely the codification of Roe. I am predicting that, until codification, pro-life baggage disqualifies any presidential candidate. A particular instance of my prediction is that, until Roe is codified, pro-life Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is unelectable as President of the United States. Another hunch of mine is that presidential candidate Donald Trump cannot be decisively linked and pinned down to the pro-life position, since earlier in his public life he was well-known to espouse unapologetically pro-choice views, even calling himself “very pro-choice” and “totally pro-choice”, and only later evolved into pro-life politics. If his candidacy were to survive the Republican presidential primary, it seems politically feasible for Trump (in a way it would not be for DeSantis), to evolve his position once again and run credibly pro-choice in the 2024 general.

Post-Roe / Pre-Dobbs (1973-01-22 — 2022-06-24), a pro-choice voter could vote for a pro-life candidate with whom she or he otherwise aligned, without much concern that this elected official’s expressed desire to limit reproductive rights would influence real policy. In particular, this effect allowed many fiscally conservative pro-choice voters to unconcernedly vote for pro-life Republican candidates.

Post-Dobbs, such a voter no longer feels the same ease.

In the lively debate attempting to explain the fading of the eagerly anticipated but ultimately unsatisfactory Republican “Red Wave” of 2022, I tend to favor the “Dobbs was the primary factor” explanation. This Dobbs-centric explanation of disappointing Republican performance has been argued against, unpersuasively in my opinion, soon after the Nov 8 election, by The Federalist’s David Harsanyi. It has been argued for in Politico by University of Denver polisci professor Seth Masket and also in the pages of the Los Angeles Times by Nelson, Mays and Lauter, who describe the backlash as a “simmering rage”. The recognition of the immediate political significance of this rage was captured in the popular hash-taggable slogans “Roevember” and “Roe, Roe, Roe your vote”.

If we go looking for evidence, we might observe that, amid the midterms in a post-Dobbs 2022, all pro-life referendums, all in red states, lost, specifically in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana and that all pro-choice referendums won, specifically in Michigan, Vermont, and California. We could also look at pro-life Republican Mehmet Oz’s (47.1%) loss in PA, pro-life Republican Adam Laxalt’s (48.2%) loss in NV, pro-life Republican Kari Lake’s (49.7%) and pro-life Republican Blake Masters’ (46.5%) losses in AZ, pro-life Republican Herschel Walker’s (48.7%) loss in GA, pro-life Republican Mayra Flores’ (44.3%) loss in Texas. Also pro-choice Republican Lisa Murkowski’s (53.7%) win in Alaska. All of these events occurred post-Dobbs.

The Federalist Society, founded in 1982, worked alongside other American political and legal organizations for exactly 40 years on the movement that ultimately produced Dobbs. With Trump’s 2016 presidency and three SCOTUS picks, Dobbs became possible, and indeed real, with conservative Justice Samuel Alito writing for the majority. It was a stunning accomplishment of long-term preparation, strategy, planning and patience. But did this spectacularly effective unit of the broader conservative legal movement anticipate its own full consequences?

Did Federalist Society Co-Chairman Leonard Leo, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser and Focus on the Family President Jim Daly anticipate the new American political reality that Dobbs would instantly create?

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