Long Division on the Abortion Issue

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve generally refrained from commenting on HB1215. Why? Because even the mere mention of it brings out a firestorm of opinion. And there are a lot of angry opinions attached to it within both the Republican and Democratic parties.

But more than anything it has taken center stage as the defining issue of this next election. And it’s an issue that’s just so divisive. Why did we have to take this all up during an election year? It’s just going to make the business of electing candidates all that much harder.

Now, before you readers get started ripping me to shreds on the issue, I’m pro-life, but I favor the standard rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions. I have some conservative friends who don’t agree those exceptions should be allowed. But I also have to contrast that with other “very conservative” friends who claim that their brand of laissez faire politics mandate that it’s none of government’s business. So, I guess I’m somewhere in the vast middle leaning towards the right.

But that’s o.k. My circle of friends and I disagreeing on it represents a diversity of opinion which we accept. We don’t make it an issue that prevents us from being friends and Republican compatriots. But here we are in an election year stuck dealing with the repercussions of HB 1215. And it’s going to be divisive.

Why is abortion so problemmatic for elections? I argue it's because we’re not going to talk about broad visionary themes. It’s going to be difficult to focus campaigns on the basic values that all voters share (Owning a house, wanting to send our kids to college, etc.). Because that specter of the abortion issue is going to be looming over us all.

It’s not going to be “Senator, could you explain your position on funding for education?” It’s going to be “Are you Pro-Life or Pro-choice? Are you for killing babies or are you for enslaving women? Answer me! Answer me now!

And all of this is amped up even further as a result of South Dakota blazing a national trail on outlawing abortion.

I’ll go out on a limb, and actually agree with what both political parties are stating on the issue as noted in the Rapid City Journal. For the Democrats, Communications Director Don Carr had the following to say:
Meanwhile, South Dakota Democratic Party press secretary Donald Carr, when asked to comment on Rounds’ action, said that the party has not addressed the abortion issue in its platform for years.

“It is not currently in our platform because we have good Democrats on both sides of the issue,” Carr said. He said that the Democratic legislative leadership “encouraged their caucus to vote their conscience.”
And Randy Frederick of the GOP also had similar comments:
“Some Republicans supported HB1215, and some didn’t, and some Democrats supported it, and some didn’t,” he said, referring to the Legislature’s votes on the HB1215.

And, Frederick said, “I think it’s fair to assume that every person in South Dakota does not get up in the morning and immediately start thinking about the abortion issue. It’s a big issue at the current time, but the elections are a long way away.”
Why do political people like the party apparatus (and me) dislike this issue in campaigns? Why do we hope it’s not going to be a major factor? When it’s at the forefront, it’s a wildcard. It makes elections as unpredictable as South Dakota weather.

In elections, each party starts with a party base, and you have this large pool of people who don’t have as strong a party identification. They are the group that you have to sway to come your way. You do this by strategically framing issues and ideas in your favor. You also frame a message of how your opponent doesn't share those values. You sculpt that message based on your familiarity with your voters, and attempt to draw the largest number of those voters to you to achieve victory on election day.

But as you might have noticed, abortion cuts across party lines. It literally throws things up in the air and dashes that coalition of voters you are familiar with to the rocks. Instead of being one issue among many that you use in framing your message to draw voters, it becomes a primary issue which you have to try to figure out how to relate the other parts of your message to. If you can at all.

There was once a Republican PUC candidate who was running at the State GOP Convention several years ago when abortion was at the forefront. As she spoke to various coalitions of the party faithful, one group asked her about her position on abortion. She told them that she was pro-choice, and that group promptly said they could not support her.

Her response was to note that "the PUC has nothing to do with the abortion issue." To which the reply was "Well, you might run for higher office someday, and that would concern us."

Just as I fear will happen now, abortion became the overriding issue. They didn't focus on the other several dozen areas of agreement - they focused on one minor difference.

If Republicans want to win elections in the upcoming political races, we need to focus on the basic issues and values that all Republicans share. Not the things that divide us. We need to focus on maintaining our winning coalition of voters and that which makes the GOP strong and has allowed our domination of the South Dakota political scene.

But that might be wishful thinking this year.


Anonymous said…
It is wishful thinking and has been for sometime. The polls are dominated by the wackos, and the convention is even worse.
Anonymous said…
Its your party in Governor's house.

Its your party in the Senate leadership.

Its your party in the House leadership.

Republicans. Republicans. Republicans.
Bob Newland said…
YOUR party leader just handed the wackos the bone to fight over.
Anonymous said…
In case anyone is interested in the partisan score, the Senate vote on HB 1215 was 23-12. Broken down by party:

Ayes R-17 6-D
Nays R-8 D-4

The final House vote to concur in Senate amendments to HB 1215 was 50-18. Broken down by party:

Ayes R-43 D-7
Nays R-7 D-11
Anonymous said…
It may be worth noting that the amendments to include in case of rape, and or incest, were tabled without debate by the republicans in the House of Hunt.
Anonymous said…
Gov. Rounds is a Nancy Boy. I am very disappointed in Rounds' very weak endorsement and support of the HB 1215 (Abortion Ban Bill). He could never beat Sen. Johnson because Johnson is a pit bull when it comes to campaigning (just ask Sen. Thune). Rounds would be dominated by Johnson. Where is Larry Russell? We need someone like Russell to compliment Sen. Thune, who could stand up and fight for South Dakota. Being a public servant is not about being polular; it's about doing what is right. Gov. Rounds is far too worried about being popular than fighting for what is right.

Remember a century ago slavery was legal and constitutional, however it was WRONG. Remember a century ago not allowing women to vote was constitutional and legal, however it was WRONG as well. Now we have abortion. Abortion is constitutional and legal, however it is WRONG. When we look back a century ago and say how slavery and not allowing women to vote was a travesty, so will people a century from now who will say abortion was a travesty. Wake up and smell the coffee people. Abortion is murder, plain and simple. Scientific evidence even proves this statement...once the egg is fertilized, a separate human being is created by creating a separate DNA and a beating heart.

PP said…
Settle down guys.

I don't disagree with you, but this post is about how it affects election year politics.

Not about the morality of abortion itself.

Reminder: I said I was pro-life, and for the "R-I-L" exceptions, just like you.

So remain calm....
Anne said…
The thing is, for many people abortion is not a "minor issue". It's THE issue. I personally am in this camp. It trumps all other views, issues, etc. I vote for the candidate who has the most pro-life history (and yes, I'm aware many pols just give it lip service). Fortunately, it's primarily been Republicans as I agree with the Republican platform as a whole over the Democrat's.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Are you scared because Larry Russell is one of only a hand full of individuals in the GOP who has a real backbone? I have met Larry Russell several times, and I have been wowed everything time. He is a true up and comer. If it wasn't for Qusi Al-Haj and Nancy Swenson, Larry Russell would have secured the GOP nomination for Congress in 2004. I would go further and say Russell would have defeated Herseth in the Special. Herseth defeated Diedrich by 1.5% in June, and I am convinced that Russell is much better than 1.5% than Larry Diedrich.

I admit Larry Russell does come on strong, but I would rather have someone like that versus someone who is spineless.

I have been told Russell has worked for the GOP and Thune tirelessly for his entire career. It's no wonder he has made some enemies along the way. When you are disliked, many times it is because an individual is getting things done. When you get nothing done, people like you because you aren't stepping on anyones toes. Russell gets things done.

I think the above anonymous comment about Larry Russell is right on target.

Maybe someone else should get their head examined!
Anonymous said…
WOW - you have met Larry Russell a few times and have been "wowed everything time." You are so eloquent. With supporters like you, it is no wonder Larry Russell didn't secure the nomination. Please don't blame Qusi, he his one of the true patriots of this party. Larry has done plenty to set this party back, so please don't put him on a pedestal as some sort of demi-god for South Dakota Republicans.
mjb said…
Admittedly, the Larry worship is starting to border on fellatio, but "Qusi is one of the true patriots of this party?"

Qusi is in it for Qusi. Period
Reifelman said…
"Qusi is in it for Qusi," is that seriously the statement you want to make? Do you even know the man? Have you ever taken the time to speak with him? He is in it for everything other than himself. His business took a hit because of his vocal support for John Thune. His wife is now running MicroSolutions, because he can no longer have a hand in it. He works tirelessly for the people of South Dakota and all you can say is "Qusi is in it for Qusi." I respect Qusi a great deal. I do not always agree with him, and we have had our verbal sparring matches, but his interests in politics are selfless. I just hope some of this reaction is just xenophobia rearing its ugly head.
mjb said…
reifelman - who's bringing up race in this? That would be you.

I've been involved with the party for a couple of years - less lately - but whenever I'd see Qusi do something, it was for his own shameless self promotion.
Reifelman said…
mjb -- In this instance, xenophobia was in relation to the fear of a foreigner (Middle Easterner to be more precise). Qusi was never about self-promotion and anyone who was truly involved with the party on the Pennington County level, West River level, or statewide, knows that Qusi was anything but a self-promoter. I question just how active you were, are, or ever will be.
Anonymous said…
Qusi did cost Larry Russell the nomination and probably cost the GOP the election. Qusi did NOT represent the GOP of Pennington County in that vote and really hurt the GOP. Thanks, Qusi!

Larry Russell has great qualities and I agree that the GOP does need people of strong principles. That is why the GOP leadership fears Larry--he won't gut his principles to prop up the incompetent.

The GOP in South Dakota is in the middle of a war. It is too simplistic to say it is just a cultural war. It is also about abuse of power and looking the other way. We simply need people who will stand up and fight for what's right. That's why we need people like Larry Russell.

Legislators who come to mind are Brock Greenfield, Jerry Apa and Bill Napoli. I know I'm missing some, but I am proud of these folks. They are actually attempting to accomplish something other than a democratic agenda in the Republican caucus--Adelstein and Rounds.

It amazes the fear people have of Larry Russell. Larry, that's a compliment.
Anonymous said…
Larry lost a lot of support on the second ballot when people began to fear he might actually win. Check the numbers, he dropped the second go around. The "vote for the w.river guy" went bye-bye when the majority out west (not in Fall River County, the end of the absolute earth) started to realize what accidently might have happened with him getting the nomination...sure as heck would have helped Daschle as LR would have been a thune clone and that's scary.
Anonymous said…
Yes, he would be like Thune. Conservative. Sorry that troubles you.

There was one vote that changed in the second round from west river. But the real second round change was the block vote for Diedrich out of Hughes County. In the first round, Hughes County split three ways, with no votes going to Russell.

Don Rounds was a delegate from Hughes County. So, yes there was probably some fear Russell was going to win. But that fear appeared to be eminating out of Hughes County. Russell could not be controlled.

The only areas where Larry was weak in the west river delegations was Pennington and Meade Counties. He had the support of the majority of the delegates from almost all of the other west river counties. That's too bad. Pennington County used to lead a west river coalition. At the nominating convention, they destroyed one.
Anonymous said…
Mercifully, Larry Russell's time is over in South Dakota politics. Like a car crash, he created quite a display, but the results were quite gruesome. Lance, on the other hand, is someone who South Dakota can embrace. Intelligence, steadfastness, without the overreaching political ambition that grates on the average citizen. If you want to hitch your wagon to a Russell, pick Lance.
Anonymous said…
I think the time is right to discuss what conservative means. Is what just passed in the legistlature a "conservative" messure when it comes to abortion. The president supports the 3 exceptions, so does the gov., and probably most of the republican legislators that voted for Hunts bill. This state appears to be made up of nuts, I loved Molly Ivans piece on Napoli in the Argus yesterday...to true, sounded like Kari Weems' thought process as well..."those upity women."

I for one as a republican, am sick of have to vote or talk like I'm from the 30% of the Unruh/Hunt wacko side of the party to below in the conservative wing.

Yes, John Thune and Larry Russell belong in this 30%/Jihad wing of the party. And while they are at it, why don't they take Julie Bartling with her, although in her case I believe it's stupidity. John and Larry aren't dumb, just zeolots in sheeps (at least in JTs case) clothes.
Anonymous said…
The discussion on this page evidences a desire to see Larry Russell run again. I think we will see him again in the not too distant future. Sure, he will have to explain what happened, but it surely isn't inexplicible. He wasn't charged with anything.

On the other hand, Lance Russell has many of Larry's qualities, but he is also like Larry, in that he cannot be manipulated. The same folks who are scared by Larry will also be afraid of Lance.
Anonymous said…
And Larry is a lot better looking than Lance, sorry, but that's part of Larry's appeal-he looks good giving a speach.
Anonymous said…
Bald is beautiful! Just ask Barnett. I guess substance doesn't always prevail. Too bad he ran those skin ads. Otherwise, substance might have prevailed.
Anonymous said…
Skin ads? Who are you talking about, Jeff Gannon?
Anonymous said…
Either Russell would do very well, even though one is a skin-head (no racial conotation intended).
PP said…
I believe Anon is referring to the infamous series of ads that tried to imply "Kirby makes money from selling cadaver skin for collagen implants while burn victims go without and die".

It's the ad which sent the Barnett and Kirby candidacies into a death spiral and allowed Rounds to move into firstplace.
Anonymous said…
Yes, we know PP. The Gannon reference was an opportunity for you to come out and pledge not to receive funds from candidates or the party to blog...other than advertising revenue which I have no problem with.

Is there a war college policy here?
PP said…
I wish someone would pay me. But they look at my blog and go "Bleaugh!"

Anonymous said…
Just so you all know--I'm from RC and I happen to agree wholeheartedly with MJB that Qusi is indeed in it for HIMSELF. He pegged it perfectly! If narcissism was his only problem, I'd feel alot better. Unfortunately, he has the wool pulled over Thune's eyes because he worked for his campaign in 2004. Probably his biggest problem is his inability to tell anyone the TRUTH.
"a true patriot"? What a joke! The GOP is but a vehicle to him. He doesn't really believe in the party at all, he just believes it will get him to the next step.

I've seen him walk all over good people in the Penn Co. GOP, believe me, he's a wolf in sheep's clothing. Everyone just wants to believe this Muslim can change his spots. But it doesn't take too much time of being around the guy before his true colors show.

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