Before you blow a gasket, yes, Republicans and conservatives are the ones who pushed for it. But the recent spate of anti-legal and safe abortion legislation in the U.S. must be perceived as a complete, comprehensive, and long-term failure of the Democratic Party.
If the Democratic Party has a signature, defining issue in 2019, it is not any of the issues the ‘economic left’ has been promoting. Regarding minimum wage, at least thirty House Democrats oppose a universal increase to $15/hour (unclear how many in the Senate oppose a universal increase)–there is a ‘big tent’ on this issue (to use a phrase). The signature defining issue is not Medicare for All–that is only supported by a minority of the party. It’s not pro-union policies such as card check or repealing Taft-Hartley; we haven’t seen many bills for this speeding to the floor of the House, never mind the Senate. It’s not environmental policies such as the Green New Deal either.
No, the signature, defining, ‘red line’ issue over the last decade or two is legal and safe abortion. In the House, there is only one Democratic member, out of 235, Dan Lipinski, who is anti-abortion, and, in the Senate, only one Democratic member, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, opposes abortion after twenty weeks. At the state and local levels, the picture isn’t much different. Often, in conservative areas, one of the defining differences between the Democrat and the Republican is support for legal and safe abortion (on economic issues, the Democrat usually isn’t that different). Put another way, a machine learning algorithm would hone in on abortion to determine if someone is a Democrat or a Republican.
Yet, on this defining issue, the Democratic Party is getting clobbered in terms of policy. Democrats have failed to secure judgeships (and, in the name of bipartisanship, failed to play hardball to secure those seats), hold statehouses and gubernatorial offices, and maintain Senate majorities. It’s not just ‘losing elections’, it’s the failure to enact policies, such as voting rights legislation or D.C. statehood, to prevent Republicans from tilting the playing field–and Democrats have failed to do this for years (though there have been some exceptions, often short-lived).
This is also not just a policy failure, it represents the final shredding of the unofficial intraparty deal between New Democrats (and moderates) and what used to be called liberal Democrats. Essentially, liberal Democrats would get scraps from the high table, but, at least, Democrats would keep the judiciary under control, and abortion would be safe and legal (hell, might even get non-shitty civil rights-related stuff too!). Safe to say, that deal is null and void. What is the point of compromising on economic issues when the New Democrats and the moderate Democrats can’t even hold up their end of the bargain? As Brad DeLong noted regarding other policy areas, the New Democrat reign has failed at a political level.
This is a complete failure of Democratic Party leadership, both elected and the ‘supporting’ groups. This time, the left, construed somewhat broadly, shouldn’t let a crisis go to waste. The “I Feel Your Pain” reunion tour isn’t going to cut it. We need new leadership and new understanding of the crisis, not an ersatz ‘Resistance’, because the Democratic Party has failed at its signature issue.