To be clear: hyper-partisanship poses a greater threat to our elections than any foreign government ever will. As the race for 2020 comes to a slow boil with 23 Democratic candidates currently vying for the nomination to oppose President Trump, the partisan politics have already begun to shape the issues we are supposed to really care about. Take the current conversation that started with four Republican led states passing near complete abortion bans in the past three months which came to a head last week with Alabama making the fifth. Alabama carried last week’s national news cycle enacting a near total abortion ban, with no exceptions for rape or incest and hefty penalties for doctors and patients who violate it. The conversation has been a bitter one dividing neighbors not based on whether they are for or against abortion per se, but mostly along party lines be they “Pro-Life,” a Republican party stance or “Pro-Choice,” a Democratic party stance which has now morphed into “Pro-Women’s Rights.” Is this a setup? I caution that it is. Because, as it is, Alabama’s law is Alabama’s law, it’s national implications, if any, are far into the future if it indeed poses a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the current national law on abortion which decriminalized abortions up to the point of fetal viability or roughly 24 weeks. Even still, if Alabama’s law challenges Roe, it will be Alabama’s (and any other state’s) burden to overcome the standing law. My skepticism stems from the timing, the sentiment purposefully invoked, and simply, the nonsensical nature of it all which threatens to dominate our 2020 election cycle.
First, although there has been a steady wave of change in abortion laws since Republicans took over state legislatures in 2010, it hasn’t been until recent months that, Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, and, now, Alabama have enacted laws that take direct aim at Roe v. Wade. These states’ varying bans each outlaw abortion at a time in a woman’s pregnancy which is currently protected from state law by Roe. The timing of the grandstands are critical; with the current conservative leaning Supreme Court, Republican led Senate and White House, all that is missing for a full-on campaign against Roe, and a change in our nation’s abortion laws, is the public sentiment. But call for sentiment begs the questions: Whose fight is this? Why? What is the true issue? Is it OUR issue? Should this dominate OUR 2020 Election cycle? My inclination is that the timing is a political stunt to darken in party lines around a hot topic, one which tends to resonate with a certain party’s base. Because, with increasing gun violence in our schools across the nation, rising costs of healthcare and drugs, a decline in the quality of education, poverty, homelessness, lag in industry, pollution, police execution of citizens…you get my drift, one may conclude that challenging a near half-century old law is not OUR issue.
I am not speaking to whether this country should overtly denounce its support of extreme cases of baby killings or whether it should take an anti-abortion stance, in general. I am only speaking to the facts that the imagery and issue itself automatically invoke sentiment, whether be it for or against abortion. But wait…that isn’t how the issue has been framed by hyper-partisan politicians who have weighed in on it. The issue has been framed as ‘pro-life’ versus ‘pro-women’s rights’ which has led to a totally different sentiment and brought those who may not particularly have a stake in the abortion issue in to choose a side. This looks like typical hyper-partisan politics at work to me. For a week straight every media outlet from social media to local morning radio and evening news covered Alabama’s abortion ban framing the issue in this partisan fashion. So, already, political gaming has begun a divide that will likely shape our 2020 election cycle.
Partisan politics is not generally bad, as our country has made great strides through bipartisanship. Take the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the nation’s leading law against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The act required Republican support of the Democratic-led proposal as nearly a third of Senate’s Democrats were from the South and vehemently opposed the law. Its passage is only one example where bipartisanship was used to solve one of our nation’s most damning issues. Hyper-partisanship, the real issue, is normally deficient with its emotional pleas and ideological stances because there is rarely much logic attached. Take the abortion bans, truly being pro-life isn’t bad, at all. In fact, being pro-life is a commonality of most decent human beings. But, a conflict arises when the same partisan politicians who cite pro-life as their motivation for advancing anti-abortion legislation in 2019, do not take same energy to act in areas of child welfare laws, gun control, health care reform, the death penalty or any other life-sustaining issue beyond anti-abortion. So, like most times hyper-partisanship has skewed the issue into something that doesn’t make much sense from a national standpoint.
When Barack Obama was elected president, he saw hyper-partisanship as a threat to our democracy and vowed to “turn the page” on then current partisan politics bringing Democrats and Republicans together to negotiate solutions to our common problems. But he acknowledged his defeat in his final State of the Union address stating, “There’s no doubt a president with gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.” As hyper-partisanship has made politics nearly impalpable in the Trump era, we cannot let our former president shoulder the burden for allowing partisanship to hijack our democracy. If we are not careful, hyper-partisanship threatens to interfere with our election process by diluting the issues, further dividing citizens with common areas of interests, and causing people to vote based on fears or ideals instead of plans to address common problems.
It’s time WE make them stop. Our voice and vote will make the difference.