Rights the Blue States could lose if the GOP returns to power

Here is a national fetal rights policy!
Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Right now, the two main parties in the United States are polarized on the role of the federal government. Democrats, as has generally been the case since the civil rights era, favor federal activism to establish certain rights and conditions of life at the national level. Republicans have increasingly adopted the state rights posture that the GOP was originally founded against in the mid-19th century.

This has been the backdrop for many of the great political and legal battles of 2021. Democrats, who have a ruling triumph in Washington, struggle to impose or re-impose national standards in areas ranging from voting rights health care through income maintenance. Meanwhile, Republicans are using every tool available to protect the independence of state governments they control, as GOP-dominated federal courts strive to dismantle the rights guaranteed to all Americans. This dynamic will likely become even more evident in 2022, when the United States Supreme Court is expected to overturn or severely restrict the right to abortion, producing hugely disparate state policies on reproductive rights.

It really is a historic turning point, says Ron Brownstein at Atlantic:

Since the 1960s, Congress and the federal courts have acted primarily to strengthen the bedrock of basic civil rights available to citizens in all 50 states, a visible model on issues ranging from the dismantling of Jim Crow’s racial segregation to the right to l abortion to the authorization of the same -sexual marriage. But now the offensives of Red state governments and GOP-appointed federal judges are poised to reduce those common standards across a range of issues. The result in the 2020s could be a dramatic erosion of common national rights and a growing rift – a “great divergence” – between the freedoms of Americans in the Blue States and those in the Red States.

But it would be a mistake to assume that this is the ‘new normal’ in US politics, with Democrats perpetually attempting to extend their policies to those living in the Red States and Republicans focusing on the state. under their control and implicitly accepting that they have little control. on what is happening elsewhere. If Republicans get their own trio of government – which could happen as early as 2024 – they’ll be tempted to let go of their passion for state rights and impose the policies they favor nationally, a development Brownstein says. calls it the “darkest scenario for Democrats”. Here are some types of federal laws and regulations Republicans could very well pass in this scenario, which would limit rights even in blue states.

reversal Roe vs. Wade and the return of abortion policy to the States has long been a primary goal for an anti-abortion movement that has formed a strong partnership with the Republican Party. But the ultimate goal – enshrined in the GOP platform since 1980 – is a federally established “fetal personality” right that prohibits any state law authorizing abortion. And there are many signs that this perspective could become dominant in conservative circles once the Great White Whale Roe deer was harpooned. One important indicator is the recent omission of exceptions for rape and incest in many state abortion bans (including laws in Texas and Mississippi which are now before the Supreme Court). These exceptions were once considered politically binding, and forcing pregnancies caused by rape or incest to term remains highly unpopular.

Second, the prospect of elevating the personality of the fetus to the rank of federal constitutional law remains remote, given the extreme difficulty of enacting constitutional amendments, even popular ones, and the ground that even a conservative Supreme Court should cover before it is adopted. examine. But a federal law imposing human rights on states is entirely doable if there is a Republican trio in Washington that first removes the obstacle imposed by Senate obstruction (see discussion below) .

Beginning in 2013, after a conservative Supreme Court majority gutted the main enforcement provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Republicans quickly abandoned a commitment to federal voting rights that most of them (outside of the Deep South) embraced up to Eisenhower. administration. This became most evident in 2021 when only one Senate Republican – Lisa Murkowski – was willing to back John Lewis’s Advancement of Voting Rights Act aimed at restoring the voting rights provisions Republicans supported. once almost universally (for example, in 2006, when Senate Republicans all voted in favor, then George W. Bush signed an extension of VRA).

But what seems to be gaining momentum, thanks to encouragement from Donald Trump and some conservative ideologues, is the idea that America needs federal legislation to solidify “electoral integrity.” This could include banning state laws expanding access to the ballot through liberalized early voting (especially by mail), re-emancipation of ex-criminals, and simplified or automatic voter registration. Likewise, Republicans are showing signs of preference for standardized election administration rules to prevent a repeat of what the folks at MAGA see as the theft of the 2020 presidential election by Democratic state and local election officials. . It is no coincidence that two of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, Senator Josh Hawley and Congressman Mike Kelly, introduced a “2020 Election Integrity Protection Act” right after the elections. last election to resolve these two alleged problems.

One of the most important but under-discussed political developments of the 21st century has been the constant abandonment by Republicans of their once strong support for objective standards for public schools. George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation was one of the initiatives that produced the strong Conservative backlash that in turn created the Trump-era Republican Party. And by the time a common basic education standards initiative, originally led by Republican governors, paid off in the 2010s, it had already become anathema to most conservatives.

Part of this trend undoubtedly stems from growing Republicans’ support for publicly funded private education (including the home schooling option that conservative Christians have increasingly embraced). But more recently, even grassroots Republicans who still use public schools have become so hostile to teacher unions and the “education bureaucracy” that a party-wide “parental rights” movement has mobilized both those who want public funds to go directly to parents to use for private and home schools and those who want to control what (and how) public schools teach.

Because the parental rights movement views state and local education authorities as inherently untrustworthy, there is no particular reason for its Republican allies to value state rights or local autonomy in education. . Inevitably, if they are able to do so, it is very likely that Republicans in Congress and a future Conservative administration will embrace parental rights nationwide with legislation to prevent states and localities from monopolizing public funds or from monopolizing public funds. educational material that conservatives find objectionable (most obviously, material about racism, but also conservative religious targets as robust as sex education and evolution). GOP administrations have for years promoted federal voucher programs as a means to undermine funding for public schools; a broader attack on teacher unions and “bureaucrats” is inevitable.

Perhaps the area where federal right-wing activism is most firmly established is that of efforts to anticipate state and local policies viewed as hostile by the GOP business community, which invariably pressure their friends to Washington to protect them from the state’s blue regulators.

Federal climate change activism was very present under the Trump administration, especially in its high-profile war in federal courts against California’s anti-pollution policies. Given the emergence of climate change both as an existential crisis for much of the GOP’s business base and as a cultural issue for MAGA activists, you can count on future wars against climate initiatives in the GOP. Washington Blue State when Republicans are in full control.

The feasibility of right-wing federal activism, of course, comes up against one of the same key hurdles Democrats currently face: Senate filibustering.

Mitch McConnell has been adamant in his defense of filibuster, which currently gives him the power to veto any Democratic initiative that isn’t wrapped in a workaround, like reconciliation. It might sound like a guarantee against filibuster reform once the shoe is on the other foot, but I wouldn’t count on it. It has been widely forgotten that Donald Trump’s initial beef with McConnell was the Kentuckian’s refusal to kill the legislative obstruction in 2017 when Republicans attempted to enact a repeal of Obamacare, among other conservative policies backed by Trump. Trump has consistently denounced McConnell’s move until the Republicans’ loss of the House in mid-term in 2018 made the issue largely moot.

Who knows if 79-year-old Mitch McConnell will survive as Senate Republican leader until a hypothetical GOP triumph in 2025? Either way, there’s no doubt that Trump’s influence over his party continues to grow, and given McConnell’s highly transactional (and cynical) approach to doing his job, he could easily turn around. face on obstruction if Trump demanded it (as much as he did an about-face on the admissibility of Supreme Court confirmations in the year of the presidential election when Trump needed them in 2020). Indeed, looking at the list of issues above where Republicans and especially Trump may soon want sweeping federal action, the chances of mainstream obstructionism surviving the next Republican trifecta are almost nil.

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