The unwavering support of the religious right for Donald Trump can be traced to what happened on January 22, 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted women a constitutional right to abortion in their Roe v. Wade decision. The bond between Trump and his evangelical base was sealed on another date (May 17, 2016), when he published a Heritage Foundation-approved list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees.
These zealots have spent decades working methodically to attack abortion rights. However, the highest court of the land was always tilted against them because Republican-appointed justices Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter and Anthony Kennedy sided with Democrat-appointed justices on this issue. Once those judicial obstacles were removed, the increasingly aggressive anti-abortion laws in conservative-leaning states could wind their way through the judicial system for another make-or-break test on its constitutionality. We are at that moment thanks to Kennedy’s suspiciously-timed retirement.
Predicting what will happen between now and Election Day is a fool’s errand. Maybe Special Counsel Robert Mueller will come forward with indictments that turn Trump into a 21st century version of Benedict Arnold. Maybe Democratic Senators up for reelection from Trump-friendly states like Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia will not wilt under the pressure the Republicans are going to apply. Maybe a small subgroup of Republican Senators who are either moderate (Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski), retiring (Jeff Flake and Bob Corker) or dying (John McCain) will have a conscience and recognize that the standard Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set in 2016 with President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland should also apply now.
Regardless, Democrats need to fight as hard as possible. They also need to finally organize in a sustained fashion to ensure their voters finally internalize the blaringly obvious, but often ignored message that elections have dire consequences. Politics is like a jigsaw puzzle where every piece is important, so voters who lean in the direction of Democrats must vote up and down the ballot every time. Voter apathy or acting like purity trolls who won’t support candidates who don’t make their hearts flutter with excitement must be discarded into the trash bin of history.
The religious right has long understood that message, which is why during a 2016 campaign rally in Iowa Trump brazenly declared, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Democrats have to stop relying on poll-tested messaging that seeks not to offend. Threading that needle of civility has always been a losing proposition. Either you vote for Democrats every chance you get, or the Republicans will roll back every single progressive victory from the 20th century.
J.H. Norton is a communications professional, life-long Democrat, and married father of two boys living in Washington, D.C.