COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — As Sen. Michael Bennet tried to encourage a small crowd of fellow Democrats not to give up the fight for abortion rights, Maryah Lauer stepped forward, megaphone in hand, to exhort him to do more.
“Do you support ending the filibuster and expanding the court?” yelled the 28-year-old from a quartet of fellow activists. “The Democrats are not doing enough.”
The confrontation was a sign of frustration among many Democrats after the Supreme Court decision last month to strip women of their constitutional right to abortion. The question for this year’s edition midterm elections it is whether outrage will drive Democrats to vote or leave them disillusioned and staying home.
From rallies like the one in Colorado Springs to the halls of the White House, Democrats are pushing with an urgent message that voters cannot give up and disengage. President Joe Biden, who often embraces Washington’s institutional traditions, last week called for a exception to the filibuster rules of 60 Senate votes to convert Roe v. Wade in federal law.
But the president and his aides have rejected more dramatic steps like adding additional justices to the Supreme Court or opening clinics on federal land in states that ban the procedure. And that has left some in the party’s most activist circles concerned.
“People want to feel like they’re considering all options,” said Brian Fallon of Demand Justice, a Democratic group advocating court expansion, which Biden has rejected.
The party attempted to turn abortion rights into federal law earlier this year, but the effort failed when the Democratic sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia sided with Republicans who oppose the bill. Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Synema Arizonans say they oppose making an exception to the filibuster rule for abortion rights, and reiterated their position hours after Biden’s statement, making it impossible.
Instead, the Democratic message is shaping up to be: Elect more Democrats to protect abortion rights. That, however, risks backfiring on Democrats who argue that impassioned calls to vote hardly automatically translate into people doing what they’re told.
“There has to be some articulation of what they get for voting in the election,” said Tresa Undem, a liberal Democratic pollster. “People want to hear real strategy, they want to hear real results.”
The problem is that there may not be a strategy that will lead to real results, apart from winning the elections.
The party needs at least two more senators to end the filibuster and vote on abortion rights, and many worry that even if such a bill were passed, the high court would simply strike down a law establishing the nation’s right to abortion. abortion. Even drastic moves like packing the court with liberal judges, which are unlikely to pass anyway, would only be temporary victories, because the GOP could expand the court again once it gains power and add conservative judges.
Still, many Democrats say they hope their voters will act outraged by the recent ruling. They argue that Biden has really limited options and any despair over his inability to overturn the ruling will be outweighed by Democratic anger at Republicans in November.
“All the data shows that Democratic intensity has increased significantly in recent weeks,” said Simon Rosenberg of NDN, a Democratic think tank. “People in the Democratic Party may be disappointed in their leaders, but they understand, more vividly than ever, the threat posed by the new right.”
Democrats have been preparing for a tough election for months, with numerous surveys showing that Biden’s approval drops even among members of his own party. Traditionally, the president’s party in midterm elections is not as motivated as the opposition party, leading to heavy losses for the incumbent’s supporters. Anger over the Supreme Court decision is a potential political lifeline for incumbents like Colorado’s Bennet, if it doesn’t turn into apathy or despair.
Although Bennett represents a state that has voted solidly Democratic in consecutive elections, he could still be vulnerable in November if a Republican wave materializes. The GOP has nominated a challenger who, particularly for a Republican, supports a ban on late-term abortions but otherwise supports abortion rights.
Bennett has relied on Colorado voters’ strong support for abortion rights to win her two previous elections, and she knows she cannot afford complacency or apathy among her voters.
During his speech at the June 29 rally in Colorado Springs, Bennet spoke about the Supreme Court ruling and addressed the frustration and despair of Democrats. “Don’t give up,” he said. “We can’t just accept things as they are.”
It was after Bennet’s speech, when he joined local Democratic candidates onstage in a show of party unity, that Lauer and the others entered. After speaking to reporters offstage, Bennet spoke to the protesters.
He told them he was also frustrated with how his party had let things get to the point where the GOP appointed a 6-3 majority on the high court. He agreed with them to end the filibuster and codify Roe, but opposed packing the court. If the Democrats did that, he said, “we will guarantee that the majority in the Senate will be an anti-choice Senate.”
As protesters continued to be frustrated that Bennet would not agree with the court’s preparation, he warned them: “There is not even remotely 50 votes to do what you suggest in the Senate.”
“Aren’t there 50 Democrats?!” one yelled. Others demanded that Bennet use “his power of him” on him to change Manchin’s position.
Bennet had to leave, but a staff member intervened and said that Bennet could not change Manchin’s position. He pointed out that the West Virginia senator, despite Bennet’s pleas, had eliminated his prized program, an expanded child tax credit for parents.
As the crowd parted, the sense of frustration was palpable. Several rally attendees approached Lauer and her companions to thank them for pushing Bennet. An attendee began shouting the home address of local Republican Congressman Rep. Doug Lamborn, urging people to “make your life miserable.”
Lauer, who said he campaigned for Bennet’s campaign in 2016, and the others said they were not satisfied with their time with the senator.
“If they continue to do what we’ve just witnessed, where they walk away, where they evade the responsibility of fulfilling their constitutional duties, I think that’s a big way to lose,” he said.
One of the other protesters, Chauncy Johnson, 22, said he doesn’t want the Republicans to win but was thinking of withholding his vote because of his frustration with the party.
“I want the Democrats to have a rude awakening,” he said.
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