What the Referendums Tell Us

There’s one sad news item today, which is that it appears California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, has passed. I don’t know if it’s been officially called yet, but the numbers don’t look good. Last night voters also passed anti-gay marriage amendments in Arizona and Florida. Arkansas voted to ban adoption and foster parenting by gays.

On the plus side, yesterday three states had initiatives on the ballots that would have limited abortion rights, and all of them failed.

  • Colorado voters defeated a referendum that would have criminalized abortion and some forms of birth control by defining human life as beginning at the moment of conception. This failed big; a not-final tally had the votes at 74% to 26% opposed.
  • South Dakota defeated a measure that would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when there was severe risk to the life of the mother. This was a slightly tweaked version of another initiative that South Dakota rejected two years ago. The not-final tally is 55% to 45%, which seems pretty decisive to me.
  • California’s parental-notification referendum also is failing, although I don’t think the results are official as of this morning.

I’m not 100 percent certain this is true, but I have read that, since Roe v. Wade, no state referendum limiting abortion rights has ever passed. I’d also like to point out that yesterday’s election was between a candidate with a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL and one with a 0 percent approval rating from NARAL.

Notice who won. Notice who won big and easily.

The message that I hope is not lost on either party is that it’s time to stop catering to the Fetus People. I’m sure there are states and localities in which being opposed to reproductive rights can still help a candidate win elections. But those are exceptions, not the rule. It appears to me that an enormous majority of voters, including voters in conservative states like South Dakota, are either mostly pro-choice or are more concerned about other issues.

In short, the anti-reproductive rights movement has no political clout except in the most conservative localities. And in those localities, conservatives probably don’t need the Fetus People to win elections.

The message to Democrats is that they don’t have to be afraid of the anti-choice vote. Say it loud — we’re pro-choice, and proud. And the message to Republicans is that being against abortion is not the wedge they thought it was. In fact, on a national level, being opposed to abortion rights seems a huge liability.

We’ve all heard the story that John McCain wanted to choose Joe Lieberman as his running mate and was overruled, entirely because Lieberman is pro-choice. Another veep candidate who might have helped McCain, at least in Pennsylvania, is Tom Ridge, also pro-choice. Sarah Palin may have “energized the base,” who one assumes would have voted for McCain anyway, but she drove away independents and conservative Dems. She probably didn’t lose the election for McCain by herself, but she sure as hell didn’t help him. I think a McCain-Lieberman or McCain-Ridge ticket would have been taken much more seriously by more voters.

But the GOP feels compelled to cater to the anti-reproductive rights movement, and so it gave away whatever chance it had to win the presidential election.

It’s time for politicians of both parties to tell the Fetus People to take their hate and misogyny and get lost.

7 thoughts on “What the Referendums Tell Us

  1. This is what I wrote to the creator of Moms4SarahPalin, a wing-nut, totally anti-choice blog if there ever was one:

    Dear Tami,

    I am so glad that you represent the fringe right-wing of American politics and that your politics of fear and hatred have lost.

    I can only hope that the Republican party gets back to its true roots and that it once again becomes the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower.

    In the meantime, I think that President-elect Obama has the determination, the intelligence and the fair-mindedness to take on the huge challenges and problems that George Bush and the radical right have left your country to deal with.

    I was extremely impressed with Sen. McCain’s concession speech. My husband and I both remarked that if the man who spoke last night (the “real” McCain?) had been running against Obama, things might have turned out differently. But in pandering to the radical right-wing of the party, he lost both his soul and the election.

    I feel great relief this morning and wish the US well as this new era dawns. Perhaps you too will come out of the darkness one day and participate in building America back into the beacon of hope and justice that it once was. Miracles do happen.

    I was probably too polite, but hey, it’s here site. BTW, I don’t think she’ll publish my comment.

    And now my comment to Maha and her readers:


  2. The economy trumps all: war, racism, sexism, climate change, religious obsessions. The Fetus People have been all but ignored for some time now.

    Sadly, the homophobes… not so much. Even Obama says he doesn’t support the right of gay people to marry. Minds like his need to change first. Maybe in his second term.

  3. I guess same sex marriage will be the next great civil rights movement of our times. I give it 10 years until the nation gets its shit together and gays get their rights at last.

  4. This argument has a momentum to it, that I think is building. I was encouraged the few times I heard Obama talk about how pro-life and pro-choice people really have something in common: minimizing abortions. He didn’t go into depth with this, and he said this to illustrate his approach to problems. But he opened a fresh way to talk about abortion that’s been lacking for years if not decades.

    I expect there’s going to be more of this. I expect that not only will more people begin to be persuaded by the kinds of data you show here, but that there’s going to be a bipartisan effort to move the country past this debate. There will always be the fringe extremists, but if we and Obama are successful, that fringe is going to be pushed more and more out of the spotlight, so that the pragmatists can solve this thing and move the country forward.

    And I will say that there is a generational thing going on here. The old time religionists – the Falwells and the Dobsons – are dying off. The younger generation – epitomized by Obama – are much more practical and less dogmatic (and it’s about time).

    Finally, there are a lot bigger issues than abortion coming up. Destroying the planet’s ecosystems by global warming and other devastations will make abortion pale in importance. The human race is going to have to grow up a lot more quickly, and we will look back on these particular fetishes that dominated our era and our energy as trivial.

  5. America’s pro-gun and pro-abortion. That’s our nation, folks, cope with it.

    It’s a pity about Proposition 8. What now? Lots of lawsuits involving the gays already married; lots of plane flights to Massachusetts and Connecticut; and another proposition in two years, repackaging gay marriage as ‘civil unions’.

  6. The thing about Prop 8 (prop “Hate”), is that time is definitely on our side. Broken out by age, the youngest voters voted No on Eight by a huge margin, especially compared to older voters. It will be overturned in time.

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