Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, has a message for Republicans about the social issues: they can help you win elections.
On banning late-term abortions and defunding Planned Parenthood, for example, he told me, “These life issues are winners in the political body. The country is pro-life.”
Gov. Brownback should know. He and the GOP-controlled Kansas state legislature have passed a total of 17 pro-life bills, and in 2014 despite a poor economy, budget problems, and relentless press attacks, he won re-election for a second term in a tight race, 50 percent to 46 percent.
The abortion issue doesn’t just rally “the base.” An outspoken candidate with a record of success can use the Democrats’ abortion extremism to flip soft Democrats and independents, as Susan B. Anthony List has demonstrated. Brownback credits his pro-life record with helping him with the Hispanic vote in the last election. “I won the Hispanic vote in Kansas in my re-election 47 percent to 46 percent. I don’t think another Republican governor can say that, except maybe Susana Martinez. Passing 17 bills showed them I’m for a culture of life, which I understand what a culture of life means, and that is something Latinos identify with,” he pointed out. Just over 11 percent of Kansans are Hispanic.
Here’s where the GOP is right now: they control, allegedly, all three branches of government, so they need to demonstrate to voters they can act to pass legislation. Defunding Planned Parenthood and banning late-term abortions are issues that put the Democrats in a terrible spot. Either the Democrats decide to sit this fight out, and Republicans actually pass legislation that matters. Or they filibuster and fight, fight, fight in order to please their base — in which case the Democrats defending their seats in Trump territory in 2018 and elsewhere are going to be handing the GOP an issue that helps them get to 60 seats in the Senate and a true governing majority.
Let Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Florida’s Bill Nelson, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin explain to their increasingly pro-life constituents why they couldn’t vote for life.
Social conservatives are used to arguing for pro-life legislation on moral grounds. But the reality which I and my APP colleagues showed in “Building a Winning Coalition: Lessons from the 2012 Election” proves social issues actually help Republicans win elections as well, and the social issue on which the evidence is most clear is certainly the abortion issue.
Brownback agrees, and, as he points out, so does the President of the United States: “Trump, to his credit, was our most outspoken Republican nominee we’ve had since Roe v. Wade, and he gets the value of being out that boldly. Really, what I’m trying to do any time you get the House, the Senate, and the Presidency — you need to hit the early moments hard, and you need to hit it with big issues. I really think the Congress and the President need to hit the life issue hard early. I’ve been in this alignment before, and you got that first year and year and a half that you just have to pound it.”
Photo credit: Aleteia Image Department via Flickr, CC BY 2.0