I’ve watched Americans in recent years acclimate to some very grim realities. Especially since the ascension of Donald Trump, numerous tragedies and extreme policies have been met with little political consequence: schools targeted by mass murderers, immigrants treated as subhuman and autocratic regimes around the globe affirmed as allies. While Mr. Trump did fail in his re-election bid, a swing of just over 20,000 votes in the three states with the narrowest margins would have produced a win for him, and Democrats hold razor-thin majorities in the House and the Senate.
In the weeks following the leak of a draft ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which all but guaranteed the end of abortion protections under Roe v. Wade, it initially seemed this pattern would hold. About three weeks after the leak, a CNN analyst claimed that “the Republican wave is building fast” heading into the midterm elections. In late May, the highly respected election analysts at the Cook Political Report increased their estimate of how many House seats the G.O.P. would gain. The discussion was not focused on whether the November general election would be a “red wave” but rather just how big of a wave it would be.
But once the actual Dobbs decision came down, everything changed. For many Americans, confronting the loss of abortion rights was different from anticipating it. In my 28 years analyzing elections, I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened in the past two months in American politics: Women are registering to vote in numbers I’ve never witnessed. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how different this moment is, especially in light of the cycles of tragedy and eventual resignation of recent years. This is a moment to throw old political assumptions out the window and to consider that Democrats could buck historic trends this cycle. [Continue reading…]