Politics

The Midterms Are About Minority Rule

Who’s got a plan to fix this?

An illustration of a uterus.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Here is one question the midterms are ostensibly about: Do voters care about Dobbs?

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is, of course, the decision the Supreme Court handed down in June 2022 that stripped women of their fundamental right to bodily autonomy and negated nearly a half century of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade. The reaction to Dobbs the weekend it came out was mostly fury—it’s not just women who support the right to access abortion; it’s a clear majority of Americans. But the consequences of that decision will primarily be borne by people who can have children, which is why in the months since June we have been treated to horror story after horror story of what women are forced to endure when they are not allowed to access the health care they need—whether their pregnancies are wanted or not, or forced upon them, or are suffered by women who are actually just girls, children as young as 10 years old. It is understandable to think that the question facing down the country this midterm season is whether women will tolerate being treated as sentient uteruses.

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But we know what Americans think about abortion. Support for this right has been consistent basically ever since Roe v. Wade was handed down in January 1973. What has changed is not how many Americans want women to have access to health care—what has changed is how galvanizing abortion became as a wedge issue for a minority of Americans who set about making the past four and a half decades of their politics all about outlawing abortion under any circumstance. This minority of Americans made a bargain with the Republican party, essentially promising to keep them in power if the party delivered them the Supreme Court they wanted. To achieve this, the GOP not only took advantage of structural advantages that allow them to win more power than they have votes; it also manipulated political systems and did positively unprecedented shenanigans to tip the scales in its favor. And so now we have a court that is stacked with justices selected by presidents who did not win a majority of votes—and who have no interest in moderating their decisions to be in conversation with the stated desires of the majority of Americans.

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Which is why the big question of this election—and so many elections to come—is: What are we going to do about the fact that the minority is controlling the majority? And does anyone have a coherent plan to do something about it? And even if or when our politicians point out a path for voters to fix this (something they are currently pretty lousy at doing), will Americans be invested enough—and empowered enough—to do something about it?

This election isn’t about whether voters “care” about having the right to abortion. It’s about whether there’s anything to be done about the fact that so many Americans still want that right, and whether politicians have to respond to what Americans want. It’s bigger than bodily autonomy; it is also perfectly encapsulated by bodily autonomy.

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