No Anti-Choice Mandate, But Don’t Worry, They’ll Make One Up

Yesterday’s election did not, in my reading of polls, votes and analyses, represent an anti-choice mandate, an anti-health reform mandate, nor an anti-environment mandate.  But don’t worry, that won’t stop anti-choice, anti-health care, climate-change-denialist politicians from “creating” said mandates both in their rhetoric and in their actions.  And it won’t stop groups with huge sums of undisclosed corporate money from funding campaigns on these issues to distract from the reality of what is happening in the United States: increasing inequality, eroding wages and quality of life, eroding retirement security, and a mounting climate of hate.

In fact, I predict fights over these very issues will take precedence in the next two years–despite the sixties-like “listen to the people” refrain of the Republican party leadership and Tea Party candidates on this day after the election–especially if President Obama and Harry Reid continue to govern as weak conciliators rather than principled and articulate fighters for a cause.

Exit polls, voting patterns and the fate of various ballot initiatives underscore that there were two basic issues driving the majority of voters. One was the economy, and the other was dissatisfaction with the way President Obama has been “handling things,” which in fact is not so much a repudiation of his policies per se, in my opinion, but rather dissatisfaction with the priority he placed on specific issues over others and in what time frame; with the long time he allowed things to fester in Congress without providing a clear “ask” from the White House and without strong and impassioned leadership to get those asks fulfilled; and with the lack of transformational leadership he promised in the 2008 campaign (as so eloquently laid out here by Marshall Ganz).  In terms of the President, it also seemed lack of motivation and lack of feeling that they were being “heard” by Washington that drove many potential voters–younger voters to be precise–not to vote.  The voters who showed up yesterday were on average older and whiter than during the 2008 election and more conservative.

As ThinkProgress notes in today’s Progress Report:

Riding a wave of discontent, Republicans overtook the House of Representatives by great numbers, but foundered in the U.S. Senate, where the media spotlight on Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware turned off voters. Newly ascendant Republicans are full of advice for where the country — slowly recovering from the economic collapse caused by President Bush’s deregulatory policies and tax cuts for the rich — should now go. “[T]here’s a Tea Party tidal wave and we’re sending a message,” senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) said, “that government cannot create prosperity.” “Across the country right now, we are witnessing a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people,” said a tearful presumptive Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH). “We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course and commit to making the changes they are demanding.”

What was the wave of discontent based on?  To borrow a well-worn phrase from the Clinton-era: It’s the economy, stupid.  Not the health reform bill, not gay marriage, not abortion.  It’s not even “illegal immigration” despite the best efforts of folks like Sharron Angle to play to people’s basest emotions in inspiring fear of “others.”  Instead, as polls show, it is the fact of a bad economy and the fear it won’t get better that drove most voting patterns in most places.

CNN and the Associated Press both report on polls that underscore these facts:

The economy wasn’t just the most important issue to voters this year — with unemployment hovering around 9.6 percent, it was roughly twice as important to them as the other top issues of concern combined.

Sixty-two percent of voters named the economy as their most important issue this year. Health care ranked a distant second, at 19 percent, with illegal immigration and Afghanistan trailing at 8 and 7 percent.

That repudiation of health care reform was and is not the issue the Republicans and Tea Party adherents are making it out to be seems self-evident: Voters in only two states–Arizona and Oklahoma–approved ballot initiatives that attempt to prohibit mandated health insurance, but these are largely symbolic as state law can not trump federal law. Despite a close race between Democrat Michael Bennett and Tea-Party/Republican Ken Buck, Colorado voters defeated a state constitutional amendment that would have banned requiring people to have insurance. That initiative, Amendment 63, failed 53 to 47 percent.  It would have also blocked penalizing people who don’t enroll in insurance plans and protected patients’ rights to make direct payments to their health care providers.  And Amendment 62–the initiative that would have declared life beginning at conception and conferred full rights of “personhood” on fertilized eggs–failed miserably in a more than two to one defeat.  If people wanted to give fertilized eggs a seat at the legal table, their were plenty of voters there to give it more juice.  They didn’t.

Finally, a ballot initiative seeking to repeal environmental regulations failed in California.  

While clearly in some extremely conservative states so-called social issues are the be-all- and-end-all priorities for some in the far right wing, at a much broader level it was the economy on one hand and the deep disappointment of the progressive movement in Obama and the Democrats on the other that drove the outcome of this election. Economic fears drove older and more conservative voters to the polls in a campaign funded by anti-incumbent, anti-progressive campaigns themselves fueled by undisclosed corporate money, and the younger voters who propelled this Administration into office on the basis of the transformational promises made by Obama and the Democrats in 2008 largely stayed home because those promises were abandoned right after Obama took the oath of office.

It seems to me right now that “listening to the people” would translate to “focusing like a laser-beam,” to borrow another phrase, on the economy.  According to the Progress Report, however, Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA), now poised to become the House Majority Leader, said the election results are “a clear mandate for smaller government, less spending and new jobs” but promised to try to repeal health care reform “right away because that’s what the American people want.”

Not so much.

Neither do the “American people” want a Congress focused on efforts to undermine women’s reproductive rights and health nor focusing on undermining the rights of gay people. The polls don’t support this, the outcomes of ballot initiatives don’t support it, the concerns about the economy underscore the real priorities.  People want to eat, pay their rent, send their kids to school and save for retirement.  They want to be able to fulfill their responsibilities and enjoy their lives to the greatest extent possible.  But there is so much corporate money involved fueling a “let’s keep the public distracted campaign” and so much energy engaged in supporting this effort, it makes it easier to slip through those tax cuts to the super-rich and gut environmental regulations.

But here is my prediction:  We will see almost immediately a range of efforts to focus on restricting reproductive and sexual health and rights.  A House of Representatives led by the Republicans and Tea Partiers will give full reign to the likes of Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ), Mike Pence (R-IN) and Joe Pitts (R-PA) to constantly push for restrictions on women’s rights in U.S. international policy.  They will try to pass a law codifying a global gag rule, try to reinforce and strengthen abstinence-only until marriage funding in U.S. global AIDS funding, and turn a blind eye to efforts to pass heinous laws targeting homosexuals as criminals in places like Uganda. 

There will be grandstanding on and efforts to eliminate the non-existent funding of abortion in health reform and there will immediately be pressure not to include contraceptive coverage as preventive care in the regulations to be written by the Department of Health and Human Services.  Senator-elect Rand Paul is chomping at the bit to introduce legislation conferring rights on fertilized eggs at the national level, and he will have lots of support among the right-wing contingent in the Senate and perhaps little push-back from the relatively weak Democratic leadership that is there now.  And much time will be spent trying to repeal health reform, if not wholesale, than those things such as mandated coverage for children with pre-existing conditions that cause a health care executive or two to take a few million less in compensation from their stiil-exhorbitant profits and cry foul for “business productivity.”

These and other efforts, having nothing to do with the election, but will nonetheless most likely be a large part of the result.

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  • andenakker

    And much time will be spent trying to repeal health reform, if not wholesale, than those things such as mandated coverage for children with pre-existing conditions that cause a health care executive or two to take a few million less in compensation from their stiil-exhorbitant profits and cry foul for “business productivity.”

    Actually, they’ve already partially “solved” that problem by no longer offering children-only plans to new subscribers.  Everyone wants to make the insurance companies out to be the bad guys, but in reality the increasing cost of insurance is mostly a function of the increasing cost of health care, which Obamacare did little to address.  Instead, it simply tried to take advantage of the present situation to spin the insurance companies into oblivion, leaving the door wide open for single-payer health care.  Hopefully that train wreck can now be averted.  (Not that insurance doesn’t play a huge part in the problem of the high cost of care, but it has more to do with how we use and pay for insurance than anything in particular the insurance companies have done – they just give us what we ask for.)

  • waterjoe

    Everything you wrote could be said about the 2008 election.  That election was also about the economy, not social issues.  It certainly was not a mandate to pursue pro-choice policies, but that did not stop abortion rights proponents from claiming they had a mandate and from seeking laws and policies more favorable to abortion rights.

  • rebellious-grrl

    The way I see it the only “winners” from Republican candidates being elected are corporations. Republicans are nothing more than “front men” for their corporate lobbyists and interests. Republicans will lie, cheat, and steal to get their way. They have all of the hubris they need to think they are above the law. The will and do make stuff up. It won’t surprise me if they say they have an anti-choice mandate.

    There will be grandstanding on and efforts to eliminate the non-existent funding of abortion in health reform and there will immediately be pressure not to include contraceptive coverage as preventive care in the regulations to be written by the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • rebellious-grrl

    It amuses me that the Republicans said there were “Obama death panels” (which was an outright LIE) in actuality the insurance companies are the gate keepers to care and the real death panel.

    Single-payer health care would be dreamy. I hope this happens sooner than later, but I’m sure the Republicans will do their damnedest to fight it.

  • boudica

    I am sure you are right that they will use social issues to distract, and if women continue to become collateral damage in the games that men in power play, well that’s how it’s always been.  They’re merely game pieces, along with blacks, browns, lgbts, etc., in mens’ grand schemes of power and domination.   But there are dozens of women in the new congress too – if they vote for policies that hurt women, then that’s the true tragedy.  Men stick together to protect their interests, right or wrong.  That’s how/why women are half of the human species and yet are still marginalized as an “interest group”.  There is no greater success that the male gender can claim.  So congresswomen, how about do the sisters a favor and protect OUR interests.  Fight for your female children’s futures, if not your own.

  • arekushieru

    I guess women fighting for their rights SHOULDn’t be a mandate?  Wow, what year is this?  200?

  • rebellious-grrl

    Just checked out this video by Rachel Maddow. “Rachel Maddow Explores Right Wing Lying Echo Chamber.”!

    It’s well worth the 14 minute watch. 

  • beenthere72



    “Rachel Maddow is a vampire”.   LMAO!


    Unbelievable that people could be SO gullable. 

  • rebellious-grrl

    I thought that was hysterically funny too and the part about the canned unicorn meat. I love Rachel Maddow. 

  • prochoicekatie

    Umm… over 600 anti-choice pieces of legislation came before state legislatures in the past year. Many of them passed. Almost NO pro-choice legislation was pursued or passed, particularly on the federal level.

    The only way that funding for abortion will be expanded will be when the philosophical argument of whether something that some consider morally objectionable but remains legal can be EXEMPT from public funding occurs. As of late, pacifists pay for wars, those opposed to the death penalty still have their tax dollars contribute, and those opposed to social security still have deductions from their paychecks.

    Regardless, as the economy is ACTUALLY a complicated issue, with no clear and simple solution, I am quite sure the conservatives will be much more happy passing anti-choice legislation to appease their base then actually tackle the economic issues.

    However, the election of Republicans en masse is actually a MANDATE that they propose something to fix the economy, instead of poo-pooing everything the Dems have done.


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