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The real reason Republicans aren’t winning swing voters

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Another election night in which the Republicans had to put away those champagne bottles they had on ice and keep them for perhaps another day. It wasn’t a disaster for them, but it also wasn’t the results they were expecting to hear from the voters either.

What is the message the voters are sending? A lot has been written about how the abortion issue is backfiring on the Republicans and it is. But that’s not really the reason they are failing to win over swing voters unhappy with the economy and other issues.

What voters are saying is that they want more personal freedom. Abortions over the last several decades have been greatly declining in numbers, down about 2/3rds from their peak numbers. People don’t really want more abortions as  today most women have access to and use contraception — but they do want the personal freedom of having the choice of abortion — hence the very name “pro-choice.”

In addition to the abortion constitutional amendment in Ohio, these Midwestern, primarily Republican voters also approved the legalization of marijuana for those over 21. Do these voters all want to smoke joints? Maybe, but the more convincing answer is simply that they want the freedom to have that choice. 

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So what’s interesting is that the Republican Party, long identified as standing for smaller government has switched sides. On these issues, it’s behind more government intervention — laws and policing that restrict abortions and legal use of marijuana — while the Democrats are on the side of greater personal liberties. This has confounded the independent voters who have leaned Republican in the past and taps into their libertarian streaks. And this explains how party loyalty only goes so far when personal freedoms are involved.

These very same voters also oppose the growth of cancel culture, the intervention of government in parents rights and the attempts at government censorship with the tech companies. Each of those issues has also brought out the anti-government type voters. Governor Glenn Youngkin was able to win his election riding on a wave of concern that the state was intervening between parents and their children on sensitive issues. He lost this election to expand his mandate once he floated the idea of a 6-week abortion limit which put him on the other side of government intervention. He won with cutting back government and lost by urging new government restrictions. 

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This is not a country in which prohibition — which seemed like a good idea at the time —was able to stay in place for too long a time. The Supreme Court kicked the abortion issue to the voters and the voters are registering their votes that Roe vs Wade or something close to it is a standard they could live with despite widespread misgivings about third trimester abortions. Ron DeSantis seemed to all but sink his campaign the day he signed a six-week abortion bill. If he does not repeal or modify it he may find himself having trouble getting re-elected governor let alone president.

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It’s easy to try to put things in neat ideological or party boxes but such efforts don’t really explain how voters in Ohio and Virginia could vote for Democratic members and referendums. The results should not seem much of a mystery once seen in the larger framework of the uniquely American striving for greater personal freedom in their lives and how this concern can seemingly be stronger than even basic concerns about the economy and crime. People, and especially the critical swing voters, want less government in their lives these days and that is as true for abortion and marijuana as it is for government censorship and parental rights. 

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