The GOP’s shrinking junior varsity team has no clue what to do about abortion

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Unlike you, dear reader – who’d prefer to boil your eyeballs than watch another Republican “presidential” debate – I dutifully endured Wednesday night’s farce-a-thon, patiently waiting for the GOP’s shrinking junior varsity to address the most timely political issue plaguing the party: Abortion.

Given all the humiliating defeats Republicans suffered in Tuesday’s elections – from Ohio to Kentucky, from Virginia to Pennsylvania – I was interested to hear whether these candidates (minus AWOL Trump) had any new ideas on how to halt the losses that have piled up ever since Trump’s high court theocrats killed Roe v. Wade.

Finally, 99 minutes into the two-hour event, the topic came up. And they have no clue what to do.

To get there I had to slog through so much muck along the way – like when Vivek Ramaswamy attacked Nikki Haley’s daughter and Haley responded by calling him “scum.” Or when Tim Scott, declared “we have sleeper terrorist cells in America, thousands of people have come from Yemen, Iran, Syria and Iraq,” despite zero evidence that it’s true. Or when candidates vowed to strengthen our (supposedly) weak military without ever mentioning that a fellow Republican, dumb jock Senator Tommy Tuberville, is holding up hundreds of military appointees.

Ron DeSantis brought up Tuesday’s election debacles (“We saw last night, I’m sick of Republicans losing”) without acknowledging why Republicans have been losing – namely, because independents and young people and suburban women are furious about the Republican crusade against reproductive rights. He also neglected to mention he’s part of the problem, having signed a Florida law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (i.e., virtually all abortions). He had nothing to say about what he’d do about abortion if he were president (he won’t be). He also said Republicans need to “do a better job” on abortion referenda, without ever explaining how.

Nikki Haley riffed – as she did in previous debates – about how we as a nation need to find “consensus” on abortion, but that’s rhetorical vapor. There is no possibility of “consensus” because either you believe that women have the right to control their bodies free of government meddling, or you don’t. Meanwhile, she’s sorta kinda opposed to the enactment of federal restrictions on abortion, but only because it’s politically unlikely, given the high bar of 60 filibuster-proof Senate votes and a Democrat in the White House.

Tim Scott declared, “I would certainly as president of the United States have a 15-week national limit. We need a 15-week federal limit,” which (1) ain’t gonna happen, for the reasons Haley cited, and (2) Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin championed that very same proposal in Tuesday’s statewide elections… and got his butt kicked, losing both legislative chambers.

Chris Christie acknowledged that, in the post-Roe era, different states are going to have different abortion laws, but he never said what he’d do about the religious Republican zealots on Capitol Hill who are currently agitating for some kind of national ban. Indeed, nobody on stage uttered the name “Mike Johnson,” the zealot who runs the House and has co-sponsored a bill mandating a national abortion ban at roughly six weeks.

Lastly, ghastly Vivek Ramaswamy jabbered that Ohio’s abortion-rights referendum “effectively codifies abortion all the way up until the moment of birth without parental consent,” which is a blatant lie (big surprise). In reality, parental consent for minors stays on the books in Ohio, and “up until the moment of birth” is standard right-wing demagoguery, because late-term abortions (for emergency medical reasons) are exceedingly rare. Like, less than one percent of the national total. He also had nothing to say about what Republicans should do going forward, which is fine by me, because he isn’t worth another noun or verb.

What about the frontrunner, who skipped last night’s debate and took refuge among his suckers at a rally up the road? He’s not saying much about abortion, either – but he’s on record with this braggadocio: “I got rid of Roe v. Wade…I was so honored to have done it.”

“Thanks a lot, ball and chain!” no other candidate will ever dare say.

Copyright 2023 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]