The desperate GOP effort to find an acceptable message on abortion

The recent defeats at elections has resulted in the GOP scrambling to find a message on abortion that will placate the anti-abortion zealots in their base while not alienating everyone else. Will Saletan looks at where the GOP candidates for the presidential nomination have ended up.

AS A PRO-CHOICE BACKLASH against the Dobbs decision sweeps across the country—defeating pro-life ballot measures, passing pro-choice referenda, and taking down Republican candidates—the GOP is scrambling for safe ground. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is telling candidates to oppose a federal abortion ban. The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee is advising them to settle for “reasonable limitations.”

In the Republican presidential race, the two men who stoutly advocated a federal ban on abortions—Mike Pence and Tim Scott—are gone. The candidates who remain on the debate stage or who don’t need it—Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Donald Trump—are hedging or downplaying the issue. They still call themselves pro-life. But they’re finding ways to pretend that they’re not a threat to abortion rights.

WHICH OF THESES CANDIDATES, beneath their respective façades, is most likely to ban abortions? Here’s my best guess. DeSantis signed the strictest ban as governor, and he’s doing the least to conceal that he’d do more as president. Haley, despite her pro-choice mimicry, would sign any abortion restriction that reaches her desk. Christie is the candidate least likely to sign a ban, since he has set the highest threshold for acting without a consensus of the states. I’m excluding Ramaswamy, who can’t be trusted.

As for Trump: He doesn’t care about this issue at all. He views pro-lifers as an interest group, like the dairy industry. He thinks that by ending Roe v. Wade and giving them the “power to negotiate,” he has sufficiently bought them off. And so far, he seems to be right.

Expect more shifting rhetoric from all of them as they grope around for a formulation that is evasive and vague enough to not antagonize too many people.

It is ironic that the call to ban abortions, which theGOP long used as a rallying cry for their base and resulted in them hailing the US Supreme Court’s overthrow of the Roe v. Wade precedent as one of their greatest victories, has so soon turned into an albatross around their necks.

The need to “pass the rule” is further stymying the GOP leadership

It is when things break down that one learns how things really work. In the case of the US House of Representatives, the highly dysfunctional GOP has resulted in me learning new things every day and the latest is the need to “pass a rule” in order to more easily pass legislation.

The House has two ways to pass legislation: By coming directly to the floor for an up-or-down vote, or making a quick pit-stop at the House Rules Committee.

What’s the difference?

Bills that come directly to the House floor for a vote and bypass the Rules Committee are passed “under suspension of the Rule” and require a two-thirds majority of the voting members to pass. Bills that make the pit-stop in the Rules Committee come to the floor with certain debate parameters that must be fulfilled, but this method enables those bills to pass the chamber with a simple majority. But those debate parameters, called “the rule,” must also first be debated and voted on before the House can debate and vote on the underlying bill.
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Suella strikes back

To no one’s surprise, Suella Braverman wasted no time in lashing out at UK prime minister Rishi Sunak who had fired her as home secretary for her intemperate remarks about demonstrators and the homeless. In what has been described as a ‘brutal’ three-page letter, she accuses Sunak of being a feckless betrayer of promises made to her to gain her support, and who would never have become prime minister without it.

The prime minister has also been accused by a group of “red wall” and rightwing Conservatives of abandoning the voters who brought the party to power in 2019, as anger among some backbenchers grew over Braverman’s sacking and the surprise return of David Cameron.

In her letter, Braverman claimed that Sunak had agreed to a secret pact to introduce key measures to secure her backing during the Tory leadership contest in October 2022, against Boris Johnson, but then “betrayed” the country by failing to deliver.
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Shutdown averted. For a short while. Again.

The House of Representatives passed a two-step stop-gap funding measure, funding part of the government until January 19 and the rest to February 2. There was no aid for Israel and Ukraine. If passed by the senate and signed by president Biden (which seems likely), then that will avert the shutdown deadline on Friday and will buy another two months before the next shutdown crisis.

The voting was interesting. It passed 336 to 95 but most of the votes to pass (209) came from Democrats with only 127 Republicans joining them. Just two Democrats sided with 93 Republicans to oppose the bill. This result is almost identical to the one that passed the previous continuing resolution on September 30th. 209 Democrats and 126 Republicans voted in favor while one Democrats and 90 Republicans voted against it. When former speaker Kevin McCarthy passed that continuing resolution without demanding the big spending cuts that his extremist faction demanded, it caused apoplexy among Matt Gaetz and his faction of the GOP who argued that he was caving in to Biden and the Democrats and triggered the process that led to his ouster.

Now that Johnson has done almost exactly the same thing, what will the Gaetz faction do? I cannot see them having the stomach to do a similar revolt against Johnson and oust him after the entire GOP conference had hailed him as the party’s savior after the bruising speaker battle. They cannot afford to go through that again. But if they don’t do anything, then they would have been effectively defanged.

There are reports that they are furious about this vote but are not sure what to do and are trying to find ways to assert their power.

Many House conservatives are fuming that Johnson — the most ideologically conservative speaker in decades — refused to take a hard line in his first attempt negotiating with Democrats and instead leaned on them for help. In the end, more Democrats voted for the measure than Republicans, in nearly identical numbers to the September stopgap measure that triggered McCarthy’s firing. Some tore into his strategy in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, arguing that his plan, which would allow funding levels set under Nancy Pelosi to persist for months, is tantamount to surrender.

They’re not looking to oust Johnson over it. But some conservatives are privately entertaining other ways to retaliate.

Watch the GOP go through yet another drama of infighting.

John Oliver on the Israel-Hamas war

Once again, it is a comedy show Last Week Tonight that provides a serious and balanced look at the carnage that is taking place in Gaza. Oliver points out how even calling for a ceasefire has been made controversial and Biden and Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau are tying themselves up in knots trying to avoid calling for one.

The myth about the GOP before Trump

There is a belief pushed by the mainstream media that there was a GOP before serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) took over the party and a very different GOP after SSAT. In this view, before SSAT, the GOP had a mix of so-called moderates and extremists but the extremists were a minority and the party establishment consisted of moderates who could keep them in check and fob them off with small favors. But that is simply not true.

To find that old GOP, one has to go way back, as far back as the Eisenhower days and even then we had the anti-Communist hysteria led by Joe McCarthy loonies who had considerable influence. But it was with Richard Nixon that the GOP started its rapid slide to the far right and in its racist attacks on the poor and minorities, disguised as the war on crime. Over time, that mask of moderate dominance began to peel away steadily with people like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and the Tea Party becoming ascendant and the demonizing of government going into full swing. Sarah Palin’s ascendancy to becoming the vice-presidential nominee and her appeals to the ugliest sentiments of the electorate revealed the true face of the party. SSAT is the person who has finally and openly gloried in what the party has become. He is the word become flesh, to use a biblical metaphor.
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That was quick: Braverman sacked

UK’s prime minister Rishi Sunak has sacked his home secretary Suella Braverman, the vicious, right wing extremist who had been pandering to the basest attitudes and Islamophobes with her comments about how being homeless was a lifestyle choice and suggested that charities be prohibited from giving them tents, and that demonstrations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were “hate marches” and made up of pro-Palestinian mobs bent on desecrating national monuments. She had already been sacked once as home secretary by Liz (“loser to a head of lettuce”) Truss, the short-lived predecessor to Sunak as prime minister, a sacking that she also seemed to have sought.

I suspect that she was actually seeking to be fired as a means of increasing her profile as a possible alternative to Sunak for the party leadership, to portray herself as a bold truth-teller that the party establishment wants to silence. For that reason, I predicted that Sunak would refrain from firing her but I was wrong. He must have felt that having her in the cabinet was a greater liability than having her outside. Her supporters within the party are already rallying around.
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Ohio dead-enders seek to undermine referendum on abortion

You would think that it has become abundantly clear that people do not like extremely restrictive measures on abortion. While not all of them firmly believe in a woman’s right to choose and some may not particularly like the idea of abortion or want it to be too freely available, the majority seem to realize that exceptions are necessary in the case of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus seems to have serious problems. They also seem to want abortions to be available until viability, or until about two trimesters, which was the standard in Roe v. Wade before the US Supreme Court jettisoned it. Trying to enforce more restrictive measures results in voters coming out in force to reject those efforts, as we saw in Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and elsewhere.
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This is the GOP shutdown avoidance plan?

The House of Representatives and its GOP leadership seems to be floundering in its efforts to avoid a shutdown while placating its own members. The new speaker Mike Johnson unveiled a plan yesterday that seems needlessly convoluted.

Unlike ordinary continuing resolutions that fund federal agencies for a specific period, the measure announced by Johnson would fund some parts of the government until 19 January and others until 2 February. House Republicans hope to pass the measure Tuesday.

The Louisiana Republican appeared to be appealing to two warring House Republican factions: hardliners who wanted legislation with multiple end-dates; and centrists who had called for a “clean” stopgap measure free of spending cuts and conservative policy riders that Democrats reject.

The legislation would extend funding for military construction, veterans benefits, transportation, housing, urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and energy and water programs through 19 January. Funding for all other federal operations would expire on 2 February.

The House Republican stopgap contained no supplemental funding such as aid for Israel or Ukraine.

Even if this passes the house with purely GOP support, an iffy proposition at best since some have already said that they oppose it, its chances in the senate are small. Even if it passes there, the White House has thrown cold water on it.

So Johnson and the GOP will continue to waste time as the Friday deadline approaches.

Suella Braverman is a really awful person

The UK’s Home Secretary, a rising star in the UK’s Conservative party who is seen as a future prime minister, seems to be a real piece of work. Jonathan Pie rips into her for suggesting that people who live in tents are really making a ‘lifestyle choice’, rather than because they are homeless for reasons beyond their control, and thus deserve no assistance or even sympathy.

Braverman has also sided with far-right counterprotestors who clashed with police when they tried to disrupt a massive protest march of hundreds of thousands of people in central London protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and calling for a ceasefire.

The march took place amid heightened tension between the Met police and Suella Braverman, the home secretary, who last week accused the force of showing bias when it came to demonstrations and of favouring left-wing causes and what she called pro-Palestinian “mobs”.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, pinned the blame for the violence on Braverman who he claimed had stoked the tension and stirred up people on the far right. “The scenes of disorder we witnessed at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the home secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder,” he said.

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s first minister, also called for Braverman to resign. “The far-right has been emboldened by the home secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the police on Armistice Day. The home secretary’s position is untenable. She must resign.”

With Downing Street coming under pressure from Tory MPs from across the party to remove Braverman, Sunak last night condemned the “violent, wholly unacceptable” scenes. He said both the far right and “Hamas sympathisers” had been responsible.

Braverman did not comment last night. Dozens of Conservative MPs have been bombarding the whips with demands for her to be fired. Senior government sources indicated that the prime minister had not wanted Armistice Day commemorations to be overshadowed by the dismissal of a senior cabinet minister but that he was still considering sacking her.

She seems to be a perfect specimen of the current breed of vicious, hate-stoking, right wing extremist politicians, ruthless and ambitious, and willing to attack the poor and marhinalized. Sunak may not risk firing her in case it serves to increase her appeal with the right wing base and she uses that to threaten him for the premiership.