What’s (not) the problem with Kansas

In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, canceling the Missouri Compromise and allowing slavery to expand into Northwest Territories through “popular sovereignty,” the doctrine that settlers could vote if they wanted to be a free state or slave. Supporters and opponents of slavery poured into the Kansas Territory, each of whom established a government that claimed to represent the will of the people. President Franklin Pierce, who in his 1853 inaugural address stated that “involuntary servitude … is recognized by the Constitution,” recognized the Kansas slave government as using the military to crush the “Free States”. Deadly violence erupted between the two factions. “Bleeding Kansas” proved to be a precursor to the civil war.

In 2022, Kansas may again be a precursor, but a precursor to the new United States, transcending party lines to defend the right to abortion against a fringe unleashed by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court.

Republicans in the Kansas legislature rolled out a constitutional amendment that would have replaced a pro-choice state Supreme Court ruling. He would have given the green light to the legislator to start banning abortion. (Current Kansas law prohibits abortion only after 20 weeks, with an exception for a life-threatening or “important bodily function.”) The Republican State House has begun its attempt to repair abortion rights in January 2021, before knowing that the Supreme Court would make him national the following year. However, by scheduling the referendum in the heat of August 2022, when Democrats have rarely contested the primaries and Republicans have many, pro-lifers were hoping to reap the rewards of low voter turnout. Kansas has approximately 850,000 registered Republicans versus 500,000 Democrats.

Republican lawmakers have made two big miscalculations.

First, not all Republicans want to ban abortion.

At the time of publication, the final results have not been tabulated. But with about 95% of the vote, some 535,000 Kansan voted “No” to the anti-abortion constitutional amendment, with 375,000 voting “Yes”. It looks like a 60-40 blast. It is significant that about 464,000 votes were counted in the Republican Senate primaries, 89,000 more than the “Yes” count. So at least one-fifth of the Republican votes refused to change the state constitution to allow for a ban on abortion, and probably more, since some, albeit few, Democrats and independents are part of the total “Yes” of anti-rights. -abortion.

Second, the Democrats will stand up to defend the right to abortion.

This was not a low turnout election. Five thirty eight number cruncher Nathaniel Rakich noted on Twitter, “The turnout on abortion in Kansas has been insane. So far, 243,000 votes have been counted in Johnson County, Kansas, and that’s nearly as much as Johnson County’s 271,000 votes cast as governor in * 2018 general election. * And you will remember how insanely high the turnout in the general election was!

We have evidence that the Dobbs the decision motivated the Kansas Democrats to flood the polls. The democratic strategist Tom Bonier, also on Twitter, he shared this fascinating fact: “Among the Kansan who registered to vote starting from June 24 (when the Dobbs the decision was announced), the Democrats have an 8-point lead. Compare that to the overall GOP advantage of 19 points among all registered voters in Kansas. The landscape changed on June 24th ”.

Perhaps with a mediocre Democratic turnout, a sufficient number of pro-choice Republicans would still have given the “no” forces a narrow victory. But she was a landslide thanks to the galvanized Democrats who collaborated with the rebel Republicans.

Does the Kansas result portend a mid-term Democratic miracle? It cannot be determined. Just because a Republican or independent protects abortion rights in a referendum does not mean that a pro-choice candidate in the House or Senate will win that voter’s assent. But while wisdom suggests that voters don’t vote on abortion, Kansas suggests otherwise.

The Kansas landslide also suggests that abortion rights can be protected in many conservative states through referendums, bypassing Republican legislatures. There was a foreshadowing of this in South Dakota when voters defeated abortion bans in 2006 and 2008 and Mississippi voters, in 2011, defeated a state constitutional amendment that defines fetuses as people.

Supporters of reproductive freedom cannot pursue electoral initiatives in every state. Most of the states in the deep south, where abortion is or will soon be banned, do not allow laws and constitutional amendments imposed by citizens in the ballot. But all of the Western states and many of the Midwest do. (Kansas is not one of them; Republicans in the state, not ordinary citizens, are the geniuses who put abortion in the ballot.) So, expect reproductive freedom advocates to vote on abortion wherever possible. Supporters of the choice in Michigan are on the verge of doing so after submitting enough petition signatures to insert a constitutional amendment on abortion rights in the November ballot. (Opponents of abortion in Kentucky and Montana this year put their own constitutional amendments on their state ballot papers, though, after Kansas, they may regret their decision.) The Kansas result, in a broader sense , is a tonic. We’re not as divided as cable TV and Twitter feeds suggest. The majority support reproductive freedom. Poll after poll has shown this, nationwide and in states where Republican officials have imposed abortion bans on a reluctant public.

Some anti-abortion conservatives have argued, with carefully selected survey data, that polls show strong support roe deer v. veal they are misleading, pointing to other polls showing support for the restrictions. But the polls don’t vote. Kansas just did it.