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Wake Up To Politics - May 6, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Roe v. Wade mailbag edition
Wake Up To Politics - May 6, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Friday, May 6, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 186 days away. Election Day 2024 is 914 days away.

I’m sorry there was no newsletter yesterday: I got busy with my final exams and wasn’t able to send one out. Thanks for your understanding!

This morning, I’m starting with a few quick headlines — and then I want to turn to answering a pair of questions I’ve received this week about the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade.

If you like this feature, let me know: I have a lot more questions readers have sent in recently that I would love to get to in upcoming newsletters.

What you should know this morning

Economy: “The U.S. economy added 428,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate remained at 3.6%, marking the 12th straight month of job growth above 400,000.” Wall Street Journal

At the White House: “Karine Jean-Pierre will become the new White House press secretary when Jen Psaki departs her role next week, President Joe Biden announced in a statement Thursday, becoming the first Black and out LGBTQ person to hold the position.” CNN

  • Jean-Pierre, a longtime Democratic operative, has served as White House principal deputy press secretary since the Biden administration began. Psaki is reportedly planning to become an MSNBC host after stepping down.
Karine Jean-Pierre behind the White House podium in May 2021. (Katie Ricks)

Covid: “The United States on Wednesday surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News — a once unthinkable scale of loss even for the country with the world’s highest recorded toll from the virus.” CNBC

  • Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said Thursday that nearly 15 million more people have died worldwide during the pandemic than would have normally, an “excess mortality” statistic that gauges the full impact Covid has had on the global population and health system.

Ukraine: “The United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war, according to senior American officials.” New York Times

  • U.S. officials also disclosed on Thursday that American intelligence helped Ukraine sink the Moskva, the signature Russian warship, last month.

Ask Gabe: Abortion in the midterms, Supreme leaks

This morning, I’m tackling two questions that have come in recently: One on the political impact of overturning Roe, and another on the journalistic ethics behind publishing a draft Supreme Court opinion.

Q: How will the abortion decision affect the midterms and GOP standing going forward? Some of my friends are saying this is actually a catastrophe for Republicans, who like using abortion as a wedge issue to rally around but know that most Americans actually support reproductive rights?” — Betsy K.

Democrats are certainly hoping a decision overruling abortion rights will be catastrophic for Republicans and drive liberal voters to the polls — and there’s some early fundraising evidence to back that up.

But does that mean overturning Roe v. Wade is a guaranteed political victory for Democrats? I wouldn’t be so sure. I think it’s very easy to envision the opposite: Democrats get demoralized by the defeat on abortion, and Republicans — after working towards this moment for decades — feel vindicated and surge to the polls on on Election Day.

After all, Democrats already hold control of Congress and the White House — and it is unlikely they will be able to do anything to counter the abortion decision. If anything, the destined-to-fail Senate vote on codifying Roe next week could just serve to remind Democratic voters that returning their party to power in Washington might not change the abortion calculus too much. (This would not be true at the state level, however.)

Democrats are already likely to lose at least the House this year, and Republicans have been much more energized about the midterms (and are historically more likely to vote based on the Supreme Court). Overturning abortion rights could drive Democrats to the polls, but it could also give them one more reason to stay home and think, “why bother?”

Protesters outside the Supreme Court earlier this week. (Gabe Fleisher)

Frankly, though, I think not enough attention is being given to a third possibility: Contrary to what many pundits are saying right now, the abortion decision might just not become a midterm game-changer for either party.

Right after the draft opinion leaked, Politico/Morning Consult came out with a snap poll gauging voter opinions. I thought it was revealing how, even after the draft opinion, only 8% said “women’s issues” (including abortion and birth control) were the “top set of issues” that would be on their mind when voting for Congress this November.

That was a 2-point bump from Morning Consult’s last poll, but still put it behind “economic issues” (41%), “security issues” (16%), “senior issues” (10%), and “health care issues” (9%).

My guess is, if Roe is overturned, there will be another bump for energy around abortion in June, but it could dissipate by November in favor of the issue that has motivated this election cycle (and most election cycles) all along: economic issues (especially inflation). At the end of the day, other issues might temporarily dominate headlines, but voters often return to casting their ballots based on those “pocketbook issues.”

It is true that more voters support upholding Roe v. Wade than overturning it. But issue polling can often be deceiving. It is often better to gauge the intensity of how voters feel about an issue (and whether it would affect their vote), rather than just asking whether they support or oppose. I’ll be watching closely for polls that ask that question: on abortion, I do think it’s possible they will show the voters who feel strongly were already likely to vote — meaning that, by November, the decision won’t affect turnout or change the results that much after all.

Q: As a reporter, what are your thoughts on Politico’s publishing of the purloined draft opinion given the Court’s historic practices of confidentiality respecting its internal deliberations that are conspicuously not final?

As a lawyer, I was chagrined that Politico yielded to the “scoop” temptation in disregard of the Court’s place in society and government. This was different in my view from, say, the Pentagon Papers case where the scooped documents were revelations of six-year old analyses of Defense Department positions during the Vietnam War which brought embarrassment and worse to light years later.

Nothing has been written yet on the decision of Politico to run with the stolen draft despite knowing full well the storm it would likely provoke and the ensuing damage to the Court. Thoughts? — Frank H.

I certainly understand this point of view. There is no question that the draft opinion leak will cause turmoil within the court and will probably inflame tensions behind the scenes.

But as a journalist, there’s really no question here: If you have a document vitally important to the public interest (and there’s no doubt this draft opinion was) and it’s not going to endanger someone’s life, you publish.

Considering the Supreme Court specifically, I agree with much of what Politico’s media columnist, Jack Shafer, wrote here.

Protesters holding images of the nine Supreme Court justices. (Gabe Fleisher)

“The Politico exclusive did the nation a service by ignoring the magic fairy dust that envelops the court to take an overdue look at the court’s decision-making process,” Shafer wrote. “The story was all the more warranted because if we had a viable Congress, it would have sorted out the legality of abortion by now.”

“Instead, we’ve shunted to the Supreme Court the job of legislating what the abortion law should be. Viewed from that angle, the POLITICO scoop is less an intrusion into the Supreme Court’s sanctified domain than it is an investigation into a piece of evolving legislation.”

As Shafer points out, no one would cry foul about a reporter publishing a draft bill working its way through Congress. Yes, the Supreme Court his historically viewed itself differently, as being above politics, but there is no reason a reporter has to respect that view the court has of itself. It is a journalist’s job to bring transparency to opaque institutions. Politico did  that here.

Is it possible the leak does “damage to the court” by rupturing its apolitical veneer? Yes. But I would argue that that veneer has been dimming for a long time now — and it isn’t journalists who are tarnishing it, or who should be the ones charged with upholding it. I say “publish.” Always publish.

What’s going on in Washington today

All times Eastern.

President Biden: Leaving D.C. (11:30 am) and arriving in Hamilton, Ohio (1 pm). Touring a metal manufacturer in Hamilton and meeting with manufacturing leaders (3 pm). Delivering remarks there urging Congress to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which will boost domestic manufacturing (3:45 pm).

  • Then: Leaving Ohio (5:30 pm) and arriving in Delaware (6:55 pm), where he will spend the weekend.

First Lady Biden: Arriving in Mihail Kogălniceanu, Romania (10 am), after leaving last night. Visiting an air base there, where she will meet with U.S. and NATO military leadership and serve meals to U.S. troops (10:30 am). Holding a virtual story-time event for military families (11:30 am).

  • Then: Leaving Mihail Kogălniceanu (12:15 pm) and arriving in Bucharest, Romania (1 pm).

Senate: Gone until Monday.

House: Holding a brief pro forma session (10 am), which means no debate or votes will be held and few members will be in attendance.

Supreme Court: No opinions expected until May 12.

What else: Former President Donald Trump will hold a rally in Greensburg, Pennsylvania (8 pm). Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, will also speak, as will J.D. Vance, who won the Ohio Republican Senate nomination this week with Trump’s endorsement.

Links to watch for yourself: House pro formaTrump rally

Before I go...

I want to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there ahead of this Sunday.

As many of you know, my own mother was Subscriber #1 to this newsletter, and I’m so grateful for her love and support always. Love you, Mom!

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe