Progressive judicial candidate Janet Protasiewicz won decisively in her campaign for Wisconsin’s open Supreme Court seat. Protasiewicz’s win (by a 10-point margin) gives progressives across the country cause for optimism. So, how did Protasiewicz, an unapologetic progressive, win so decisively in a purple swing state like Wisconsin? It’s simple: abortion rights.
The pattern, emerging consistently since the US Supreme Court handed down its Dobbs decision last summer, is that restricting abortion rights is a loser in swing-states. Near-total abortion bans, especially, are a non-starter for voters in moderate states. Even ruby-red Republican states are voting against abortion restrictions – as we saw in Kansas last year. The idea that a woman would not be able to get an abortion is increasingly unacceptable across party lines; moderates and undecided voters lean heavily towards a pro-choice stance. And in Wisconsin, the Supreme Court race became a referendum on abortion rights.
Wisconsin and Abortion
Protasiewicz was smart. Or maybe she was just principled, and her principles were more popular amongst voters. But she campaigned heavily on abortion rights – which was especially important because Wisconsin had a total abortion law (from 1849) on the books that had gone into effect after the Dobbs decision.
“[Protasiewicz’s] major issue was abortion, especially the fate of an 1849 state statute that became law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The law bans abortion in nearly all cases,” POLITICO reported.
And Wisconsin Republicans? “Republicans who control the state Legislature helped her cause by failing to amend the law. They had ample warning from results last year in Michigan and Kentucky, where abortion drove Democratic turnout.”
So, the citizens of Wisconsin, sent a very clear message regarding abortion rights; and elected Protasiewicz, who tips the Wisconsin Supreme Court 4-to-3 in favor of liberals – meaning the Wisconsin Supreme Court can be expected to shoot down the1849 abortion ban in the near future.
The results demonstrate that abortion is still a big-ticket item – and that the GOP stance on abortion is not helping GOP candidates get elected. Another election, again in Wisconsin (for a state Senate seat), demonstrated how hazardous the GOP abortion-stance is to GOP election chances. “The Republican candidate barely won in a longtime GOP stronghold in the northern Milwaukee suburbs,” POLITICO reported. “If Republicans can’t win in Mequon, their legislative majorities will soon be imperiled, and you can move Wisconsin out of the swing-state column for the Presidency in 2024.”
And that’s exactly where Republicans are this morning: coming to terms with their abortion stance. Will Republican candidates reconcile their anti-abortion views with the wishes of moderate voters – or will candidates placate the evangelical right, the zealous pro-life crowd. Either way, they’re running out of time to figure it out. “Republicans had better get their abortion position straight,” POLITICO reported, “and more in line with where voters are or they will face another disappointment in 2024. A total ban is a loser in swing states. Republicans who insist on that position could soon find that electoral defeats will lead to even more liberal state abortions laws than under Roe. That’s where Michigan is now after last year’s rout.”
It makes sense. Most people want the abortion option on the table. It’s not just women either. Men want the abortion option, too. Guys like Herschel Walker, for example. Whether Republicans wise up to the national mood on abortion will be one of the more interesting policy stories of the upcoming election cycle.
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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.