Abortion Rights and the Lie of "Reaching Across the Aisle"

Democrats make ads all the time about how they are willing to work across the aisle with the opposing party. (I know some Republicans do, too, but it's not as prominent a thing on the right.) The notion is worn like a badge of honor, as if Democrats need to show how not Democratic they are.  For instance, in this election cycle, we have Elissa Slotkin in Michigan saying, "I refuse to let partisan politics hold this country back." Senator Maggie Hassan goes even further, bragging, "I took on members of my own party" on a gas tax holiday. President Biden campaigned in 2020 on his supposed ability to work with Republicans (even if he's learned how ludicrous a notion that is). 

And while the realities of getting legislation passed sometimes forces cooperation, to insist that you as a Democrat need buy-in from the other side in order to justify your position makes it seem like you're apologizing for being a Democrat. The whole idea is a comforting lie, affirming a fictional tale of the two parties who can put aside differences for the good of the country. Mostly, it forces Democrats to agree to negotiate with people who are insane extremists and pretend like their positions aren't so. 

Lemme give you an example here:

Think about how extreme the anti-choice position is in abortion politics. Not only does the Republican Party, as a whole, believe that women should be forced to carry fetuses and give birth to children they do not want or cannot afford, a large part of the party also believes that the health of the mother or the fetus doesn't matter, nor does the trauma that may have resulted in the pregnancy. Their ideal situation is a national ban on abortion by law under penalty of imprisonment. Forced birth is as extreme as it gets. The only thing that could go any further would be to imprison a pregnant woman to make sure she doesn't get an abortion or behave in any way to harm a fetus. Oh, wait. That's already begun to happen.

While the abortion extremists of the right like to say that allowing abortion without restrictions or even codifying the Roe v. Wade decision is radicalism on the left, that's just not right. Telling people that they have the choice when it comes to their own bodies isn't radical at all. Really, it's not a stretch to come up with what extremism on the other side of the anti-choice coin is. If one side is forced birth, then the other would be forced abortion. If the Democratic Party believed in forcing people to end pregnancies that might result in disabled children or forcing abortions on women who are deemed unfit for one reason or another to be a mother, then you'd have extremism. But no mainstream Democrats or, indeed, no one in the realm of mainstream on the pro-choice side believes in this (hence the word "choice").

So in the debate over abortion rights, Democrats are arguing from a reasonable, moderate position (choice) and Republicans are arguing from an extremist position (forced birth). To "reach across the aisle" means to capitulate to extremism, to say, "Okay, we'll agree to allow some forced births." When it comes to abortion rights, many Democrats are at least drawing a line in the sand. Rep. Abigail Spanberger is running for reelection in a tough district, but she's put out an uncompromising ad on the post-Roe landscape, eviscerating her opponent for her cruel position on forced birth.

Let's be clear, though. The very idea of reaching across the aisle exists because of the filibuster. It's kind of a joke when the House talks about it because the majority doesn't need the minority. Yes, differing coalitions within the party can affect the development of legislation. But that is still the majority figuring out how to accomplish its goals. Without the filibuster, the entire impetus for negotiating with the opposing party evaporates, and the voters get the government they actually voted for, doing the things they voted the majority into power to do. (You could also add in the entirely flawed design of the Senate to a file marked "Things That Make It Hard to Get Stuff Done in the US.")

In the United Kingdom and other countries, the parties run as parties, proudly, trying to convince people not just to vote for a candidate, but for the party. Of course, that's in a parliamentary system where the majority party (or coalition of parties) decides who is going to lead the country. But ads in the UK hype the party when talking about an issue

Party identification isn't absent in the United States by a long shot. However, the idea that there is some innate good in working with just terrible people needs to be abandoned. If you are in an election battle, you believe the other side is wrong. After you win your election, why in the world would you behave as if their ideas have validity? The losing side needs to figure out how to work with you to get some things it wants. You are under no obligation to bother responding.

And if your approach fails to make people's lives better, well, that's what the next election is for.