July 7, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Unify the left to save Roe

The best way to protect abortion rights.

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The broad left is this close to eating itself over the Democrats’ reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe

When I say “the broad left,” I mean the full range of leftist politics. (I’m not counting communists. They are as unserious as they are dogmatic, violent and dangerous. I don’t care what they think. Neither should my compatriots. As for Marxists, they are dogmatic, but they aren’t dangerous. In any case, Marxism has some utility.)

On the one hand are what I’ll call progressives, who are not always liberal, who say the Democratic leadership was wholly unprepared to act in the wake of the court invalidating federal protection of the rights of women (or anyone who can get pregnant) to privacy.

The importance of unity can’t be overstated. The much-ballyhooed backlash against the stripping of half the nation of half their rights is not amassing, as far as I can see. A Monmouth poll finds abortion in fifth place (5 percent) behind grocery bills (6 percent). Atop the list, at 30 percent, is inflation. Gas prices are second at 15 percent. 

On the other hand are what I’ll call liberals, who are not always progressive, who say the Democratic leadership indeed prepared in the form of legislation passed by the House that codified Roe into federal statutory law. That bill stalled in the Senate. Liberals say the president is right. It’s now up to the voters to decide. If they want Roe turned into law, they need to install more Democrats in the Senate.

The progressive reaction is usually this: Why are you asking us to vote more if after we voted in 2020, you didn’t use your full power to counteract a high court clearly gone rogue? Why should we do that again? If Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are getting in the way (and they are), Joe Biden should lean on them till they submit. Punting to the voters is failing to live up to a campaign promise.

I think I’m representing the sides fairly. If I’m not, let me know. My goal isn’t to take one or the other. My goal today is establishing reasonable boundaries within which the broad left can argue. More importantly, my goal is insisting that reasonable boundaries be honored and kept in order to maintain solidarity on the broad left.

(Before I go on, let me say that much of this conflict is rooted in understandable panic. The broad left, being the broad left, tends to hold itself to a higher moral standard than it holds the political opposition. It therefore tends to blame itself first and foremost. Though we knew the decision was coming, thanks to a draft of it being leaked to Politico in the spring, the reality of it stabbed our guts out. Emotions are high now. They may diffuse in time.)


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To establish boundaries, let’s raise awareness of three things. 

First, some liberals, who are not always progressive, are going to shill for the Democrats no matter what. They tend to see progressives as anti-Democratic for the sake of being anti-Democratic and therefore a potential threat to be fought. These liberals can’t see the obvious and abundant merits of the progressive complaint. For the most part, they see progressives as frenemies whose intentions are suspect. 

Second, some progressives, who are not always liberal, really are anti-Democratic. Some even have capitalized on the market for anti-Democratic leftist politics that opened up after Bernie Sanders’ failed campaigns. That market is now shrinking. These capitalists now know it. For this reason, it has been hard sometimes to tell the difference between principled criticism and vulgar business interest.

Third, liberals and progressives are not arguing with each other in a vacuum. The social-media public square continues to be polluted by bad-faith actors from Russia and elsewhere who continue to deepen and widen divisions on the broad left in order to cripple it. That’s what they did in 2016. Remember that as we enter the midterms.

At this point, I want to thread the needle. 

I want the liberals to concede that the progressives are right in that the Democrats must be driven into doing what we want them to do. Nothing has ever been accomplished without raising hell. That the progressives don’t know what the Democrats should do does not detract from the fact that the Democrats must act now – even if it’s just telling us that voters need to put more Democrats in the Senate to codify Roe and restore federal protection of abortion rights.


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I want the progressives to concede that the liberals are right in that the Democrats are the only vehicle we have to achieve our mutual goal. This is America. Third parties are moot. The progressives can and should raise all the hell they want to, but they can’t cut down the Democrats in the process. We’re all in a panic over a post-Roe world. The broad left can’t afford even the appearance of hopelessness.

The importance of unity can’t be overstated. The much-ballyhooed backlash against the stripping of half the nation of half their rights is not amassing, as far as I can see. A Monmouth poll finds abortion in fifth place (5 percent) behind grocery bills (6 percent). Atop the list, at 30 percent, is inflation. Gas prices are second at 15 percent. 

If we want to see Roe as law, we have to stick together.


John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

1 Comment

  1. Thornton Prayer on July 8, 2022 at 4:48 pm

    I’m always amazed by the amount of energy liberals and progressives spend attacking each other while being nearly silent about the actions and goals of the reactionaries. This blind spot is one reason why progressives and liberals are sometimes their/our own worst enemy.

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