Discover more from The Bulwark
What Did Kansas Tell Us About Abortion?
Plus: Alex Jones' awful day in court
In today’s Morning Shots:
Alex Jones’s really awful day in court (Schadenfreude warning); Viktor Orban does CPAC; the shame of Senate Republicans; Russia’s mass deportation; RonAnon’s fumble; and the DCCC’s hypocrisy.
But let’s start with a deeper dive into what just happened in Kansas, where voters in a deeply red state voted overwhelmingly to protect abortion rights. By now, you know the toplines: Democrats were motivated and Republicans divided.
But here’s the biggest surprise: Lordy, there were swing voters.
Abortion rights supporters naturally won big in blue counties. No surprise. But they also ran up a huge margin of 68 percent to 32 percent in Johnson County, “a suburban area that was once reliably Republican but that has trended rapidly toward Democrats since Mr. Trump’s entrance into national politics.”
They also won in several counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump.
As the Wapo notes, the victory for abortion rights supports “relied on a broad coalition of voters who turned out in huge numbers and crashed through party and geographic lines…”
Look at this graphic from The Times:
How did that happen? Abortion rights advocates figured out how to talk to Middle America. Via the Wapo:
Abortion rights supporters used conservative-sounding language about government mandates and personal freedom in their pitch to voters, and made a point of reaching out to independents, Libertarians and moderate Republicans.
Organizer Jae Gray explained the strategy:
“We definitely used messaging strategies that would work regardless of party affiliation. We believe every Kansan has a right to make personal health-care decisions without government overreach — that’s obviously a conservative-friendly talking point. We were not just talking to Democrats.”…
And therein lies a powerful lesson about how to talk about abortion in 2022. As Josh Barro points out his newsletter:
The messaging in the Kansas campaign couldn’t be further from the Groups-Speak mush I have complained about previously — no “reproductive justice,” no “men get abortions, too,” — and it also ignored the sometimes-fashionable idea that you should brush right past voters’ internal qualms about the morality of abortion and simply make the case that abortions themselves are good.
Take some time to look at some of the ads that blanketed the airwaves in Kansas. Barro highlights this ad that “doesn’t even mention the word: abortion.” Instead, it emphasizes that the proposed constitutional amendment would lead to “a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions… Kansans don’t want another government mandate — superimposing that message over a COVID mask mandate sign.”
Another ad features a local doctor, who emphasizes how extreme the bans could be: "Do no harm. That's the oath we take as doctors. But now the government wants to force doctors ...to break that oath ...
“It's a government mandate that could ban all abortions with no exceptions, even rape and incest"
This ad features Christian pastor who says that the amendment would ‘replace religious freedom with government control.”
This ad stresses the threat to both privacy and freedom:
"It gives government more power over your privacy and your personal medical decisions. Don't let politicians take away your freedom."
Another ad emphasized the existing limitation on abortion: "Abortion is already highly regulated in Kansas,” it says. “Taxpayer funding for abortion: outlawed. Abortion after viability: banned. Parental consent: required."
This ad features a Catholic grandmother…
"Growing up Catholic, we didn't talk about abortion,” she says. “But now it's on the ballot ... If it were my granddaughter, I wouldn't want the government making that decision for her."
In this ad, a woman talks about an abortion that she says saved her life.
"It's an impossible choice,” she says. “I had a three year old son at the time and a husband ... if I didn't have an abortion they would be without their mother and their wife"
Nota Bene: As Josh Barro notes, abortion rights activists did not simply appeal to their base; and they resisted the temptation to scratch their ideological id. Instead, they appealed to values that resonate across the political/cultural spectrum. They met the voters where they were; and treated centrists, conservatives, and even pro-lifers with respect.
Mona Charen and Bill Kristol will join Jonathan V. Last to read the tea leaves on the 2022 Midterms and discuss the rest of this week’s news. Join the conversation starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday (8/4).
Exclusively for Bulwark+ members.
For Alex Jones, Karma is a Bitch.
Lawyers for Alex Jones appeared to have accidentally sent over the entire contents of the Infowars founder’s phone to the lawyers for the plaintiffs in his defamation trial, according to court proceedings Wednesday.
Mark Bankston, a lawyer for the parents of one of the children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and who are now suing Jones, said during the proceedings that “12 days ago, his [Jones’] attorneys messed up and sent me a digital copy of every text” and email from Jones' phone.
After Bankston told Jones that the Sandy Hook parents’ legal team had access to years of his texts and emails, he asked Jones, “Do you know what perjury is?”
Exit take: It’s about to get a lot worse for Jones. Rolling Stone reports: “Jan. 6 Committee Prepares to Subpoena Alex Jones’ Texts, Emails.”
The Indefensible DCCC
In this scathing piece, Megan McArdle hammers the Democrats’ hypocrisy in boosting Trumpist acolytes in GOP primaries… and dismantles the rationalizations of the anti-anti-DCCC pundits. (The DCCC is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.)
After six years of calling Trump the greatest threat to American democracy since the Civil War, the hypocrisy of this is astonishing. Yet the two-faced chicanery is somehow less amazing than the cavalier disregard the Democratic politicians involved are showing for their oath of office.
Last year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged the Republican Party to “take back the party,” saying, “Hey, here I am, Nancy Pelosi, saying this country needs a strong Republican Party, and we do, not a cult, but a strong Republican Party.” She was absolutely right, and yet somehow, a year later, her party is running a recruiting drive for the cultists. It’s not just Gibbs; Democrats have run the same playbook in several tight primary races, unfortunately with considerable success.
They’ve done this despite the risk that Trump’s minions will not just take over the Republican Party but also the House and the Senate — possibly with Trump himself back in the presidency come 2025. It’s so obviously dangerous that even some Democrats have publicly expressed disquiet.
“The defenses,” she writes, “range from paper thin to actually transparent.”
We won’t linger over the disingenuous insistence that the ads that Democrats ran weren’t really aimed at boosting Gibbs et al., but were merely a head start on the general election. I cannot pretend, even for the sake of argument, that anyone who has seen the ads is stupid enough to believe this.
The claim that the money didn’t really make a difference is “slightly more plausible,” she writes. “Only given how little money or name recognition Gibbs had, that’s hard to believe, too.”
What about the claim that “the real risk was letting Meijer win the primary, since his stronger general election candidacy marginally increased the possibility of the House under the control of Trump sycophant Kevin McCarthy”?
That might be plausible — if still brazenly immoral — if nominating Gibbs meant an easy win for Democrats. But it doesn’t.
“This is either a district with a modest D lean or a pure toss-up,” says election analyst Sean Trende. “Depending on what type of year 2022 turns out to be, Gibbs can definitely win.”
This, she writes, “leaves us only with the common deflection: Why blame Democrats instead of the Republican voters who chose a candidate aligned with Trump?” McArdle writes:
Which l I think those voters are grievously mistaken, and should stop supporting the treasonous oaf, or his imitators. But at least they think they’re doing the right thing.
The DCCC can hardly offer the same excuse. Only a week ago, its chair, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), declared, “The dangers of Trumpism go far beyond Trump.” Too right, Congressman. So how can you justify taking any risk of giving this movement more power?
The Distinct Shame of Senate Republicans
Today, a year and a half after January 6, Donald Trump is on his way to announce his third campaign for the presidency, 70 percent of Republicans believe the Big Lie, the Department of Justice is investigating the largest crime in history—and Senate Republicans are silent.
Trump corrupted our democracy because people let him. Senate Republicans were complicit in it. They absolved him twice knowing everything. They attempted to prevent the rest of the public from uncovering what they knew. And now that the public is finding everything out anyway, yet they say nothing.
Long after Trump is gone, their legacy will remain.
2. What Do We Know About the Ukrainians Being Forcibly Deported to Russia?
Cathy Young, in today’s Bulwark:
Amid massacres, rapes, execution-style murders, reported torture, and now an apparent on-camera sexual mutilation and murder of a prisoner of war perpetrated by Russian troops in Ukraine, the deportations of Ukrainian civilians to Russia almost pale as a human rights violation. Nonetheless, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted in a press statement last month, such forcible transfers are “a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians” and constitute a war crime. While the exact numbers are difficult to assess, the scope of the problem is horrific. And, especially in the case of children, Russian actions seem to be an ominous part of a deliberate—if haphazard—strategy aimed at destroying Ukrainian national identity.