Fear sets terrible policy
Across the United States, Republicans are scrambling to play catch-up. Many of them did not believe the warnings in 2018, thought the polls were wrong and got smashed under a blue wave that crested over them. Their response is to operate out of fear, and they are doing strange and crazy things. Georgia is a perfect example.
In that state, Democrats picked up seats in the state legislature but failed to capture any statewide office. The Republicans saw their suburban districts turn against them. Every bit of polling data suggests these voters did not wake up on Election Day and decide they are Democrat. Instead, they woke up Election Day and decided they did not like the president or anyone tied to the president. They voted Democrat to hold the Republicans accountable.
But Republicans are acting as if the suburbs rejected not just President Trump but core beliefs. As a result, the Georgia Republicans are considering passing taxpayer-funded abortion on demand. They are doing so through consideration of the so-called Equal Rights Amendment. If Georgia passes it, 38 states will have ratified it, making it the newest amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Equal Rights Amendment (or ERA) sounds rather innocuous. After all, under the laws of the United States, everyone already has equal rights. In fact, in the United States right now, women tend to graduate from college more, tend to be homeowners more and tend to have higher long-term earnings potential compared with men, despite all the hype about a wage gap. But read the writings of people like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and you will find that the ERA is actually a progressive fantasyland.
Ginsburg, writing during the original fight for the ERA back in the ’70s, argued that its passage would mean doctors would no longer be allowed to object to providing abortions based on their faith. In the states that have adopted state versions of the amendment, taxpayer-funded abortion is considered a constitutional right.
American progressives may think all of that is good, but consider one of the other arguments in favor of the ERA in the ’70s. Activists argued states would be required to offer special college scholarships to women to bring their enrollment up to the level of men. Now that the numbers have flipped, scholarships designed to boost women’s enrollment would be unconstitutional.
Also most likely unconstitutional? Alimony. There is clear research in the United States that women are more likely to be awarded custody of children and more likely to be paid alimony. Based on the data, there is a clear bias toward women in divorce courts. That would be scuttled with the ERA.
The larger issue, though, are political parties resting on their laurels. Republicans flipped the state of Georgia in 2002, mostly with Democrats switching the letter after their names from D to R. Only in 2018 did the Georgia Republicans elect a governor who had been an actual Republican for his entire political career. The state Republican Party has not advanced an agenda that is innovative, growth-oriented or any different from what the Democrats offered during their control of the legislature.
The GOP in Georgia and nationwide now finds itself in a defensive position because the party is not really sure what it stands for. Democrats have organized and are mobilized, united behind left-wing social policy and left-wing economic policy. They are routinely sustaining campaigns long after the election is over, hoping to define the other side early. They have the GOP running scared.
Republican legislatures need to consider turning the table. In states like Georgia and elsewhere, they should get Democrats on record about aggressive late-term-abortion measures. They should push resolutions in opposition to 70 percent tax rates proposed by Democrats at the federal level. They should support school choice and reform. They should support protecting faith-based nonprofits. But doing any of these things would require pushback against Democrats and an often-sympathetic media. Unfortunately, in Georgia and elsewhere, Republicans tend to be afraid of their own shadow these days.
Erick Erickson is a nationally syndicated columnist.