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A Huge Win in Ohio Offers a Blueprint for 2024
The Ohio election is a warning sign for Republicans and a call to arms for Democrats
Yesterday, the voters of Ohio soundly rejected an unsubtle attempt to rig democracy and prevent the pro-abortion access majority in the state from restoring their rights.
This is a huge win for the people of Ohio with broad implications for the 2024 election in the state and beyond.
For those who weren’t following this election closely, a coalition of groups began mobilizing to put an amendment on the November ballot to make abortion a constitutional right for all Ohioans. Despite Ohio’s status as a Republican state, polls consistently show majority support for abortion rights. Republicans knew that such an amendment would have a very good chance of passing, so they tried to change the rules. GOP legislators put on the ballot Issue One, which sought to make it harder to amend the state’s constitution by raising the threshold from 50 percent to 60 percent and requiring signatures from all 88 Ohio counties as opposed to the current 44 counties.
Like in every significant election since the Dobbs decision last summer, the side fighting for abortion rights won handily.
Here’s what it all means.
1. Abortion Remains the Republicans’ Achilles Heel
The Dobbs decision fundamentally changed American politics. Perhaps more than anything else, this chart from Gallup demonstrates how dramatic the shift has been:
The results in Ohio show that abortion remains the driving issue in American politics and the Republicans’ weakness. I wrote this around the one year anniversary of the Dobbs decision, delving into why the issue is so problematic for Republicans:
The best political strategies center on issues that unite your base and divide theirs. Abortion is one of those issues. In the NBC News/WSJ poll, nearly one-third of Republicans disapprove of the Dobbs decision. Only seven percent of Democrats approve of it. We are a pro-choice party; the Republicans are conflicted. They must appeal to their extremist base but risk pushing more moderate members into our camp.
That dynamic was evident in Tuesday’s results. The entire GOP is deathly afraid of the issue. They tried to slip Issue One under the radar by setting the election for a Tuesday in August (a normally sleepy month) when nothing else was on the ballot. In their messaging, supporters of the initiative did all they could to make the election about everything other than abortion. Check out these ads from the pro-Issue One side (helpfully compiled by the folks at the essential FWIW newsletter):
Despite these efforts, those opposing Issue One and advocating for abortion rights maintained unparalleled energy. The anti-choice side was soundly defeated in a state Donald Trump won by 10 points in the last two elections. That should be a massive warning.
2. Rigging Democracy is the GOP’s Plan Going Forward
The best way to understand the Republican Party’s decision-making is to recognize that the Republicans are a shrinking, mostly White, conservative party in a country defined by a growing, diverse, progressive majority. The GOP and its unpopular agenda cannot survive in a democracy with majoritarian rule. This is why Republicans embrace gerrymandering, voter suppression and authoritarianism. In Ohio, Republicans knew that the majority supported abortion rights, so they attempted to institute minority rule.
This is not just an Ohio thing. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times:
You can expect to see the blueprint repeated in other places. Already, Republicans in states including Florida, Missouri and North Dakota, recognizing the danger that direct democracy poses to their own abortion bans, are trying to make the ballot initiative process much more onerous.
Democrats must recognize that the primary Republican strategy on abortion and nearly every other issue will be to rig the game. This may seem obvious to many of you, but it’s a reminder to better orient our political strategy and policy agenda towards protecting and enhancing majoritarian democracy.
Thanks to thousands of activists, volunteers, and organizers in Ohio, we dodged a major bullet, but we may not be so lucky next time.
3. What the Win Says About 2024
Good Sign for Sherrod: I am not going to argue that this victory means Ohio is in play for Joe Biden in 2024. I seriously doubt his campaign will expend valuable resources competing in the state, but it is a very positive sign for Senator Sherrod Brown — who is in a very tough reelection race. All of Brown’s potential opponents campaigned for Issue One and hold extreme positions on the issue of abortion. Last night’s results are evidence that a narrow path to reelection exists for Brown in a Red state.
Keep It On the Agenda: Issue One generated an absurdly high turnout for a single-issue election in the summer. The Dobbs decision changed the trajectory of the midterms. The evidence is overwhelming. Abortion is a critical issue for Democratic victories in 2024. Although abortion remains a dominant and galvanizing issue a year after the Dobbs decision, it won’t necessarily be so when people start voting next fall. Ultimately, the salience of the issue is up to Democrats. Like in Ohio, Republicans will do everything possible to distract from their extreme positions on abortion. So, Democrats need to talk about abortion, put it in our ads, run on passing a federal law codifying Roe if we expand our Senate majority, and remind every voter that one of the first acts of a Republican President and Congress will be to pass a nationwide abortion ban.
The Work is Not Done in Ohio: The win in Ohio was an important step, but it was only the first step. The vote matters in November when Ohioans will choose whether to enshrine abortion rights into the Constitution. The MAGA Republicans will not give up. They will spend tens of millions of dollars and employ every dirty trick in their book to deny Ohioans reproductive freedom. You can fight back by going to Vote Save America to find out how to donate and volunteer for the November election.