By Teresa Welsh |
Democrats will get mixed benefits from the election's new focus on abortion. Missouri Senate candidate and current Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment and the Republicans' decision to include support for a Human Life Amendment in their 2012 platform gives Donkeys a compelling value proposition to list in their fundraising letters, but they are not going to serve as the electric prod that drives herds of voters to go blue.
Democrats also run the risk of pushing the issue over the red line. If Debbie Wasserman Schultz's botched Anderson Cooper interview this week is any indication, the media is going to increasingly take Donkeys to task for some of their misrepresentations of Mitt Romney's campaign. The GOP has inserted similar pro-life language in its platform over the last several elections. The decision is no surprise.
Abortion gives the GOP the same amount of firepower to boost social conservatives' enthusiasm. Many are single-issue voters driven by the party's pro-life agenda. We saw a similar mobilization effect during the GOP primaries. Rick Santorum used President Obama's contraceptives mandate, his directive ordering institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans, to catapult his campaign.
It's important for the public to remember that single issues like abortion, guns, and gay rights give politicians a fast, easy way to win votes. All of this rhetoric is at best symbolic politics, and at worst partisan hyperventilating. Most voters will probably agree that once these candidates get into office, single issues fall to the wayside. Abortion may be this week's distracting shake of the shiny keys. But the public isn't going to stop asking the candidates how they're going to deal with their top two priorities: jobs and the deficit. And they won't forget the answers on November 6.
About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
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