For Republicans, it’s deja vu all over again

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The ghost of political déjà vu revisited the Republican Party last week, with the GOP suffering humiliating defeats in virtually all of their political contests. The one bright spot was Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves holding onto his seat in a state so ruby red no one expected Democrats to win, anyway.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of guaranteeing women the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. Interestingly, in November 2022, access to abortion measures won in all six state ballot measures where it was up for a vote.

On the same day, candidates supported by Moms for Liberty lost in Bucks County, Pa., and Loudoun County, Va., bell-weather counties where suburban voting can occasionally indicate developing national trends. Candidates affiliated with the extremist organization also faired dismally in midwestern states like Iowa, where three school boards in suburban Des Moines flipped to Democratic control.

Right-wing organizations like Moms for Liberty have attempted to exploit parental resentment over COVID lockdowns to stoke anger and fear over other educational issues, such as how topics like race and sexuality are taught in public schools. Over the past few years, school board meetings from coast to coast emerged as lighting rods of controversy — catapulting school board elections into an issue that became a subject of national significance.

But it was the election results in Virginia that garnered considerable response from the mainstream media and revealed indicators of potential problems for Republicans. The legislative elections in Virginia were widely viewed as a test of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who neither fully embraced nor totally rejected Donald Trump. Like many of his fellow conservative cohorts, Youngkin decided to wade into abortion territory, seeking to prove that his call for a “limit” on abortion after 15 weeks, with some exceptions, was a position that could play well among suburban voters.

Youngkin anticipated his brand of conservative stances on issues would reward voters in providing him full control of the legislature by flipping control of the state Senate narrowly controlled by Democrats while simultaneously retaining a narrow Republican majority in the state House. Instead, Democrats held the Senate and also took control of the House. In several key districts, Democratic messaging was focused heavily on the issue of abortion.

Given the dramatic political shellacking Republicans suffered in Virginia in particular, most political experts are in unison the results have sullied Youngkin and will likely quell any serious discussion of him becoming a late entrant in the 2024 Republican presidential election.

The election results are not just about the resilience of abortion rights as a political winner for Democrats. It also demonstrates that right-wing culture warriors attacking education supposedly created around a “parents’ rights” agenda has resoundingly lost its political appeal.

In reality, most Americans detest extremism. People don’t want politicians to decide for them who they can or cannot marry or love. They don’t want politicians dictating what they can or cannot do with their own bodies. They don’t want politicians deciding what they or their children can read. They don’t want politicians attempting to impose their religious or moral values on them.

As a result, the majority of Americans have voted to reject the dystopian version of America that right-wing Republicans aspire to implement. For the sake of our democracy, let’s hope that ever increasingly more people do so before November 2024.

Copyright 2023 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.