Action on guns and abortion rights will be major U.S. election issues. The actions of politicians like DeSantis in Florida for authoritarian control could help in Republican primaries but sink them in general elections.

A week or so ago, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Crazytown) called for a national divorce between the country’s red (Republican) and blue (Democratic) states. Truth is, it feels like we’re going through a trial separation already.

For example:

  • Tennessee Republicans expelled two young Black Democratic state legislators from the chamber because the pair protested on the floor and used a bullhorn to support protestors outside who were calling for the legislature to pass gun control measures after the killing of three nine-year-olds and three adults at a Memphis school days before. The Republicans did it, basically, because they could. A 60-ish White woman who joined the pair in the protest was not expelled (Republicans said she never used the bullhorn).
  • The most recent (at least as of my writing this column) mass shooting was in Louisville, Kentucky, where a young man wielding a just legally purchased AR-15. At an emotion-filled press briefing, Dr Jason Smith, chief medical officer at the University of Louisville Health, said he was “weary” of the gun injuries and death he’s seen and that his hospital needed to do nothing different to handle this week’s shooting because they handle so many shooting victims every day. Louisville Mayor Craig Greenfield called on the Kentucky legislature to allow the state’s cities to deal with gun violence on their own.
  • A Texas federal judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, ruled that an abortion pill, approved two decades ago by the Federal Drug Administration after a vigorous study, and in safe use since then, suspended that approval citing rhetoric used by the Pro-Life community and not basing his decision on the science. The judge has worked for First Liberty Institute, a Christian conservative legal group and while there he submitted an amicus brief for a Supreme Court case about a Washington law mandating pharmacies to provide contraceptives. The pro-lifers shopped for that judge because they knew how he’d rule. Judgement is not by facts and science but by beliefs and fiat.
  • In Florida, the legislature is passing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda – actually what some say will be his presidential campaign’s platform – to, among other things, ban gender studies at the college level, limit the use of transgender pronouns in K-12 schools, and extend a ban on teaching about gender and sexuality from third up to eighth grade. The majority Republican legislature also passed a bill that bans trans-student-athletes from playing in the sport of the gender and legalizes genital inspection when someone has determined an athlete’s gender is in question. And DeSantis signed a bill that, as of July 1, permits residents to carry concealed guns without a permit.  There’s more, but let’s leave it there for now.
Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at a “Unite & Win Rally” at Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. | CREDIT: FLICKR/GAGE SKIDMORE

All these things are about authoritarian control and U.S. politics. What’s good in Florida for DeSantis, for example, likely could help him in Republican primaries for the presidential nomination and sink him in a general election. It’s hard to see him dancing to a middle-of-the-road position in a general election after all the things he’s doing to, uh, for Florida.

Dr Smith said it best (and I’m sure you saw him featured prominently on the news) when he said he is “weary” from the gun-related injuries he’s had to handle. Louisville’s was the 146th mass shooting this year, already. We haven’t even reached the middle of April.

The Republican Party, and some Democrats, fealty to the gun lobby is past its expiration date. The country wants action on guns. It has wanted it for a very long time. Soon it will show up more in election results.

Same with abortion. Many top legal minds are saying that the Texas ruling will be overturned (but with some hesitation because of the makeup of the Supreme Court of the United States). The abortion pill has been used by hundreds of thousands of women since it was approved by the Federal Drug Administration yet the judge said it is a danger to women.

The country, by a good majority, supports abortion rights. We witnessed some of that effect in last year’s mid-term election when the GOP failed to gain much of a majority in the U.S. House.

U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene speaking with attendees at the 2022 Student Action Summit at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida. | CREDIT: FLICKR/GAGE SKIDMORE

Many news outlets used the phrase “civil war” to describe Congresswoman Green’s call for a “national divorce.” An incendiary phrase.

Still, pay attention to what’s going on around the country, not just in Washington. Red-state governors are feeling emboldened to call for and support no further limits on guns, to end the choice that women had for 50 years when it comes to abortion, and to limit voting rights. Blue-state governors are buying the abortion pill to stockpile it while the court cases continue and trying to protect against guns and protect voting rights.

That’s all happening right now.

PMP Magazine


B. Jay Cooper, Former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Also headed communications offices at the RNC, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University.


Text: This piece was originally published in The Screaming Moderate and re-published in PMP Magazine on 12 April 2023, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
Cover: Flickr/Gage Skidmore. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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