In 2004, a left-wing Supreme Court in Massachusetts decided to legalize same-sex marriage and a grandstanding far left San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome began performing same-sex marriages. This galvanized social conservatives so that so-called “Values Voters” turned the tide and helped re-elect a Republican President and helped Republicans gain in both houses of Congress.
Democrats evidently perceived a net gain from this, since they have decided to dust off their 2004 Presidential campaign playbook. This time, they raise the stakes, as they run a full-court press for late-term abortion and even refusing to care for born-alive survivors of abortion, who not coincidentally often grow up to be pro-life Republican activists and/or voters.
In 2004, the Democrats lost a tight Presidential election they might otherwise have won, if not for the efforts of radical activists whose actions drove socially conservative voters. Could the same thing happen in 2020? There are four differences, two of which favor the Democrats and two of which could help President Trump and the Republicans.
First of all, Republicans will have a hard time getting the issue of late-term abortion on the ballot. In 2004, “Values Voter” turnout was bolstered by state initiatives and constitutional amendment votes, including in key swing states like Florida and Ohio. While Bush ran behind the initiatives in most states, those who were in favor of passage tended to favor Bush which made a critical difference in how the election played out. However, most states that will decide the election already have laws against late term abortion. While the 2004 Republican ticket didn’t have to say much about same sex marriage with the turnout being driven by ballot initiatives, the GOP will have to keep the issue front and center themselves.
Second, Bush in 2004 had a greater reservoir of goodwill with the American people. He was popular throughout most of his first term and had a solid job rating. Trump is more of a millstone and there’s more built-in resistance, which may undercut the advantage the Democrats are handing him.
The Democrats’ biggest concern should be, unlike in 2004, they’re being forced to take a stand. When the same-sex marriage issue emerged, national Democrats could get by with taking a weasel position of stating they were against same-sex marriage but also against legislation that would restrict it before “seeing the light” around 2012 and being converted to favoring same-sex marriage outright.
Democrats in 2020 won’t have that luxury. The 2004 same-sex marriage push happened as a result of an activist state Supreme Court and a renegade mayor. Democratic office-holders going on the record in favor of late-term abortion and infanticide include members of Congress and state legislators in trending purple states like Virginia. The major Democratic contenders from the U.S. Senate have all voted against requiring care for B Alive infants, and leftwing abortion advocates are sure to get every Democratic Presidential candidate on the record. Any candidate with qualms about late-term abortions or who supported Born Alive legislation will be rejected for not being sufficiently supportive of “choice.”
Finally, radicals who embraced same-sex marriage in 2004 got to claim they are on the right side of history. Whether this proves true or not, the public was moving in their direction as millennials came of age. Conservatives such as Rick Santorum and liberals such as Joe Biden have credited the sitcom Will and Grace with changing public attitudes, thus the radicals could claim to be ahead of the curve. This is why the radical San Francisco Mayor who performed illegal same-sex marriages is now the radical California Governor.
However, there is no “right side of history” for supporters of late-term abortion/infanticide. There is no“more enlightened place” that performs third trimester abortions or leaves infants to die. There is no sitcom about a jolly abortionist leaving babies who die from abortion to die from a lack of care.
Thus, Democrats face two electoral dangers related to this issue in 2020. First, they risk pushing Trump-skeptical religious voters towards Trump. Those who might be willing to consider voting for a less radical Democrat may decide to sit out the election. Others who planned to stay firmly on the sidelines may be pushed into reluctant support of Trump. Indeed, Christian organizations will sell many politically marginal voters on the idea that they need to vote for Trump to stop the radical pro-infanticide left. (Whether this is true is a topic for another column.)
In addition, voters who might not typically vote on abortion could be key to swinging the election. As things stand now, neither the current economic or national security situations would lead voters to vote out an incumbent president. There are many problems in the Trump Administration, but they remain under the surface for the average voter. The way things stand now, the only way Trump loses is if voters decide he is bad for America. If the Democratic alternative is a candidate who embraces late-term abortion and legal infanticide for born alive infants, many voters will follow the old adage, “Better the devil you know” and vote for Trump rather than embracing the frightening abortion radicalism of the modern Democratic Party.