27 March 2024

A startling win for freedom in Alabama

In general I'm actively avoiding electoral-politics-related topics these days, but what happened in Alabama yesterday was too significant to ignore.

In a state House district in which both parties are usually pretty evenly matched (Trump carried it by 49% to 48% in 2020, for example), Democrat Marilyn Lands won a special election by 63% to 37%, a crushing margin.  Her campaign emphasized reproductive freedom -- preserving the right to access IVF treatment and repealing Alabama's draconian forced-birth law, which has no rape or incest exception.  The fact that this campaign produced a result so stunningly atypical for this district shows that these issues still carry massive weight at the ballot box -- even though this one result will not bring down the evil laws, since Republicans still have a huge majority in the legislature.  Almost two years after the fateful Dobbs ruling, there is no reason to believe that the political salience of reproductive rights is fading.  If anything, it may well be intensifying.

Also of interest is that polling before the vote showed a close race -- that is, it utterly failed to predict the blowout which actually happened.  This suggests that there's some aspect of the reproductive-freedom issue's impact that polls are not capturing.  It might be that the issue is bringing out voters who don't usually vote, thus rendering the pollsters' turnout models useless.  It might be that many people who normally vote Republican (especially women) are telling pollsters they intend to do so again, but then changing their minds at the last minute in the voting booth as the horror of draconian forced-birth laws really sinks in.  It might be something entirely different.  But the pattern is there.  Not only have abortion rights won big every time they've been on the ballot since Dobbs, even in red states, but they've done substantially better than polls predicted.  Now we see that the same effect can appear with candidates as well as single-issue referenda.

(No, it's not just "rigged polls" or polling in general being unreliable.  Serious analysts know which polls are politically skewed and which are honest, and serious election forecasting is based on the latter.  There's something more fundamental going on.  And to Republicans who think that any time they lose an election the voting itself must be crooked, if you believe the electoral system in Alabama is rigged to produce fake Democratic wins this huge, then you're even more delusional than I thought.)

Based on this repeated pattern, I'm beginning to think this November's election might actually be a landslide, not the close race that the polls currently suggest.  Of course a national election is affected by many major issues and is less susceptible than a local one to being upended by one single issue.  But if the Democrats are smart enough to go all-out in making this election about reproductive freedom, they'll be able to tap into a massive groundswell of public feeling which is clearly very real and very powerful.

The odds generally favor Biden's re-election (Trump's legal problems and general assholery will torpedo him with voters outside his core cult once people start paying attention in September or thereabouts), but the margin -- and mandate -- may be a lot bigger than anyone is now expecting.  It will be astonishing if the Democrats don't win the House, after all the Republicans' blundering and backstabbing through the current term, but if the impact of reproductive rights is anything like it was in Alabama yesterday, it will be a huge wipe-out.  Conventional wisdom holds that Republicans are certain to take the Senate, since Democrats have several red-state seats to defend and no Republicans now look vulnerable -- but maybe the reproductive-freedom issue will overturn that conventional wisdom even there.  And the landslide will probably be even bigger on the state level, since that's where most decisions about abortion laws are made.  Certainly if all this happens, everyone will say that in hindsight it was foreseeable, given election results since Dobbs.

Freedom matters -- and politicians and judges who try to take it away will face the wrath of the voting masses.


Blogger SickoRicko said...

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

27 March, 2024 09:39  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I was reading abut this on Twitter today.

27 March, 2024 11:26  
Blogger Ami said...

I am hopeful because I don't want to believe that a majority of our population is willing to vote for the large orange hemorrhoid.

This is good news, and the commentary about the polls is encouraging. Thanks for posting!

27 March, 2024 16:01  
Blogger dellgirl said...

This post is very interesting and it’s also informative. Your blog is always a great read. Thank you for sharing this enlightening information. I learned something here I had not thought about before reading here.

27 March, 2024 19:42  
Blogger Regina M. said...

Thank you for today's thoughts. Just when I was feeling somewhat exhausted and depressed about the continuing saga of our politics and particularly one consistently repulsive person managing to make the headline news daily - today your thoughts brought me back to my own "normal." I've been thinking that the presidential election has a good chance of surprising us due to women being really enraged about their feelings of helplessness. Nevertheless, I do feel desperate every now and again. I totally enjoy your blog. Thank you for your efforts. From the base of the mini-mountain in Maine.

28 March, 2024 14:03  
Blogger nick said...

Encouraging to think the November election might be a landslide, given the extraordinary result in Alabama. Hopefully as you say women will turn out en masse to support Biden.

29 March, 2024 03:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ricko: As are many, I think.

Mary K: In this case, social media may be more relevant than the MSM, on which I've seen very little coverage of this. The right-wing internet has ignored it too.

Ami: I always thought the odds were against Trump getting elected again, but this focus in reproductive freedom is going to make things a lot harder for Republicans generally.

Dellgirl: Thanks! I always hope to be informative.

Regina: Thank you for the kind words about the blog -- I really appreciate it. Politics can be awfully depressing, which is why I actively avoid it a lot of the time. But combining this with all the other voting results since Dobbs, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that we're living in a completely changed political landscape. November could be a big surprise indeed.

Nick: For women who care about their rights -- and for men who care about them -- the choice should be easy. What we're seeing is a natural response when a fundamental freedom is attacked.

29 March, 2024 05:26  
Blogger Lady M said...

This was an impressive win. Perhaps it is really starting to dawn on people that their rights are on the line this election.

29 March, 2024 06:52  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

I think this is a very valid analysis, given the results we have witnessed in the last year or so. We see election after election where the Democratic candidate is far outperforming the predictions. Yet conventional wisdom (i.e. the "wisdom" paid for by the owners of the press) continues to discount the actual results and and to obsess about polls that have consistently overstated by a large margin, Republican appeal to the voters. And I just don't see how things get better for Trump as his legal troubles will occupy a large part of the coverage during the entire campaign. The only real wildcat element here is the massive Republican election rigging we are going to see, but absent a truly Orwellian mountain of electoral cheating, I can't see the Republicans heading for anything but an almost unprecedented defeat.

29 March, 2024 15:03  
Blogger NickM said...

I dunno. I think you're really onto something about The House but the Presidency...

Basically if the Dems had a younger candidate it'd be a landslide. But... I suspect a lot of people don't think Biden is physically or mentally up to it. A very large number of Dem supporters don't even think he can complete a second term. Some of this is untrue. I don't think he's senile but it is a physically tough job.

I hope you're right and there is a Dem landslide for a number of reasons but mainly because if it is close and Biden just wins we could see Jan 6th style antics on a grand scale. That could be even more dangerous than Trump II. Which is terrifying. Especially for US allies. I somehow suspect foreign policy might be the really big issue for the Presidential election. Trump's "cavalier" approach to foreign affairs and things like NATO should be an absolute killer for his hopes. Let's hope so!

30 March, 2024 03:10  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Lady M: For most people that will take a while, I think, because the election is so far away and people aren't focused on it yet. In places that have had referenda or special elections to focus people's attention, they certainly do seem aware of it.

Green: Election rigging didn't seem to be too much of a problem in 2020 or 2022. Black turnout was high despite vote-suppression efforts, for example, and Democrats did well even in some purple-state races. If rigging had had a substantial impact, we'd have heard a lot of complaints from Democratic party officials about it, but that hasn't been the case.

NickM: The concerns about Biden's mental acuity have been greatly ameliorated since the State of the Union speech, except among the hard-right core element who would never have voted for him anyway. Trump's public statements, by contrast, show a serious mental deterioration even compared with when he was president. Remember that an election is never just a referendum on one candidate, it's a choice between two. Millions of people who consider Biden inadequate or unappealing will still realize Trump is a hell of a lot worse.

As for possible Jan-6-style violence in case of a Trump loss (and he might well try to incite it even if the margin is large), the government will be a lot better prepared this time.

Foreign policy will be an issue, because of Israel, the Ukraine war, and maybe China, but not nearly as big of an issue as it should be. Most of the US is pretty provincial. A lot of Americans seem only intermittently aware that anything outside our own country even exists, and don't attach much importance to it.

30 March, 2024 04:39  
Blogger NickM said...

It's a while since I've been to the USA. But I was struck the first time I went by that provincial attitude. Genuine converstation in a bar Georgia I had:

Some Guy: "So, where you from?"


SG: "Never been there... Never goin' get me outta Georgia..."

SG must've been in his mid '30s. He didn't like Atlanta either.

30 March, 2024 07:14  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

That's really good news.

30 March, 2024 12:07  
Anonymous Annie said...

This is an excellent analysis, Infidel, and I think your assessment of the possible scenarios for the polling disparity is very interesting.

I am hoping for a landslide, which would help beat back the MAGA-imbued legislators somewhat. The Biden/Harris campaign is showing very nimble approaches in responding to events that are pleasing strategists who worried they hadn't started as early as they could have. A substantial win will enable the Biden administration to get through the remainder of its family-friendly agenda on child care support, a permanent child tax credit, community colleges, and universal pre-K. This agenda could help close the dreadful disparities that exist in our wealthy nation.

And the Senate will surely be helped by some very extreme Republican candidates in key areas, such as Arizona and Ohio--maybe even Texas.

It's up to all of us.

30 March, 2024 15:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary K: Definitely.

Annie: I'm increasingly not able to see any reason why it won't be a landslide. The margins we've been seeing in special elections since Dobbs are consistent, even in red states. If comparable shifts happen across the country in November, it's going to be a wipe-out. The biggest shocker of all would be Democrats getting an enlarged Senate majority, but even that seems possible. In Texas and Florida, Cruz and Scott won only by tiny margins last time. If we're getting ten-point swings to the Democrats everywhere, they could easily go down. Since everyone expects the Republicans to win the Senate, that would be evidence of failure that the leaders couldn't ignore.

Aside from the issues you mention, I hope that large majorities will lead the Democrats to do something about the Supreme Court -- either enlarge it or change its jurisdiction to rein in the damage it can do. The public will have given the Democrats a mandate based on protecting abortion rights, and will expect them to take decisive action on that issue. I'd also hope to see a real roll-back of the disastrous tax cuts for the wealthy the Republicans have been ramming through.

31 March, 2024 02:07  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

NickM: People like that just recoil from anything unfamiliar -- big cities most of all.

31 March, 2024 03:55  
Anonymous Annie said...

Totally with you on expanding SCOTUS—and demanding greater accountability on ethics! Also on preventing rollback of Trump tax cuts. Biden is talking about major tax increases for billionaires to fund his programs and shore up safety net; that is very popular with most Americans. But Republicans want the opposite; they’re against all “entitlements”—including those we pay for our entire working lives.

I worried I’d gone off your topic of reproductive rights and personal freedoms; your response reminds me the issues you’ve added are all intertwined with your essay. This could be a pivotal time for our country—if enough of us vote!

31 March, 2024 05:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I hope we'd see real progress in those areas and more. A supermajority is a mandate for bold action. The Republicans' role would be introspection and learning to accept where they went wrong.

31 March, 2024 14:18  

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