Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
It's the political opening Oklahoma Democrats must not turn down, now and later
A little background.
• Aug. 2 of last year, Kansas voters went to the polls to affirm or reject a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.
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If they voted “YES” the amendment would pass, wiping away abortion rights less than 10 weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court put the vote in play, killing Roe v. Wade as the law of the land almost 50 years after its inception.
If they voted “NO” the state constitution would remain unchanged, thereby protecting abortion rights state courts had already affirmed it protected.
The way the referendum was worded was purposeful, making a “NO” vote the one that affirmed abortion rights and a “YES” vote the one that wiped them away.
Voters saw through it.
Though polling two weeks prior reflected a 47-43 “YES” preference, the election went differently.
The final tally was 557,385 “NO” and 385,014 “YES,” an overwhelming 59.2 percent to 40.8 percent spread, even in Kansas, where Republicans continue to own the state house 85 to 40 and the senate 29 to 11.
• April 2 of this year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court hung in the balance.
Though judges run unaffiliated to party, everybody knew the score.
If Milwaukee County circuit court judge Janet Protasiewicz won, the court would swing into a 4-3 liberal advantage. If voters went for former state supreme court judge Daniel Kelly, it would swing 4-3 conservative.
Protasiewicz, and abortion rights would be preserved.
Kelly, and abortion rights would end.
Though Joe Biden won Wisconsin’s electoral votes by less than a point-and-a-half and the governor there, Tony Evers, is a Democrat, the state legislature remains owned by Republicans, 63 to 36 in the house and 22-11 in the senate.
Also, an impossible $45 million went into the race, so it had to be close, right?
Protasiewicz won by 11 points, 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent, or 1,021,370 votes to 818,286.
• Tuesday, two days ago, it happened again in Ohio.
Though Democrats want to believe Ohio’s a battleground, it’s really not. The ridiculous J.D. Vance topped the righteously charismatic Tim Ryan in its last U.S. Senate election 53.6 percent to 46.9 percent and two years earlier Donald Trump prevailed over Joe Biden 53.3 percent to 45.2 percent, grabbing the Buckeye State’s electoral votes.
Republicans put forth a ballot initiative that, if passed, would have required a 60 percent vote of the people to amend the state constitution rather than the 50 percent threshold that’s been in place for years and years, the whole idea being to stop a future vote from securing abortion rights.
It had to be close, yes?
Not only did the voters shut it down by 14 points, 57 percent to 43 percent, 1,744,094 came out to shut it down in an off year, in the middle of August, with nothing else on the ballot.
The abortion issue may not be turning statehouses around across the nation — yet — but every time it gets on the ballot in a red state, voters come out overwhelmingly to either keep it legal, make it legal or to maintain the conditions under which it may become legal.
So here’s a thought.
When will an Oklahoma politician, a Democrat, run unapologetically on it?
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In a post Roe world, it’s hard to know what previous Oklahoma Dem governors might have done.
Would David Boren have fought for women’s health and autonomy in 1978 had it been struck down then? Would George Nigh have done it in ’85 in the middle of his second term? Or in ’81, in the middle of his first? David Walters in the 90s?Brad Henry during a pair of terms that ended less than 13 years ago, though it seems like 30?
Hard to know.
What’s easy to know is everywhere you go, voters are far more pro-abortion than previously believed, and every time it gets tested at the polls its abortion rights that win.
We can only presume that in her run for governor, Joy Hofmeister blew it.
Roe had already been overturned and the Kansas results were in.
But instead of seeing a political opening, maybe a gamechanger, she froze.
In a story from The Frontier, under the headline, “In her run for Governor, Democrat Joy Hofmeister vague on her abortion stance,” there was this from reporter Reese Gorman:
In 2014 when Hofmeister ran for State Superintendent as a Republican, she said she would support a bill to “prohibit abortion except to prevent the death of the mother” upon the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Hofmeister said she would vote for such legislation in responses to a candidate survey from the pro-life group Oklahomans for Life.
In a written response to questions from The Frontier, Hofmeister, who considers herself “personally pro-life,” said her stance on abortion has changed since 2014 after learning “from women, doctors, victims of rape and our children victimized by incest” that the decision to have an abortion is “complex” and “should be made between a woman and her doctor.”
As a candidate for governor, Hofmeister has called for the reversal of anti-abortion laws Stitt has signed, particularly Oklahoma’s Texas-style ban that allows private citizens to sue providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain the procedure. But she has yet to tell voters what alternative policies, if any, she would support or how she would go about overturning the state’s ban.
She may have flipped on abortion to maintain support from her new party, which may well have been her actual position all along, but what she did not begin to do was scream it from the rooftops.
The next Democrat who wants the job must.
They must because it could be a gamechanger, but also because it’s absolutely right. Abortion isn’t just about women’s health, women’s autonomy or women’s rights, but about freedom for all.
It’s not just about the teenager whose life could be crushed by bringing a child into it before she can drive, but also about the married 40-something couple who thought they were about done raising kids, looking forward to an empty nest and having dough to finally spend on themselves.
It’s about freedom. And government overreach. And individual rights.
Heck, if conservatives still gave a damn about about being conservative, it would be right in their wheelhouse.
Maybe attorney general Gentner Drummond, a Republican and conservative with an actual value system, will surprise us when he runs for the governor’s chair. And if it’s true a Dem really can’t win, let’s hope he does.
But a Dem might, just maybe, if she or he would get right on the issue loudly, proudly and without reservation as it changes electoral politics before our very eyes.
The Dobbs decision that killed Roe has set women’s rights back 50 years, literally, in state after state after state, Oklahoma included. But it’s been a political gift from the heavens, too, reinforcing the facts that Democrats have been right all along and would be crazy not to grab onto the issue anew with both hands and use it starting right now.
Forget the focus groups.
Don’t listen to advisers.
Just use it.
Swing it like a cudgel and don’t stop.
It’s an idea.