The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years of letting it stand as established precedent is already having immediate impact on individuals across the country. The decision – perhaps the most consequential one by the court in my lifetime – will also have political consequences, not just practical ones. Those consequences will not only impact the forthcoming midterm elections, but have the potential to reshape American politics for decades to come.

The immediate political impact will be, certainly, on the midterm elections. Roe being overturned is certainly a major event that has the potential to completely upend the short-term political picture. For one, it will re-energize Democratic voters, activists, and donors who haven’t been thrilled with the accomplishments of either Joe Biden or Janet Mills thus far. That could give the entire party a jolt of energy that it had thus far been sorely lacking, perhaps putting Democrats’ enthusiasm on par with conservatives this fall. That enthusiasm could further delay – although it will not completely repair – the burgeoning ideological rift within the Democratic Party.

The further question, though, is how much (if at all) the decision reshuffles the concerns of the average voter, especially independents. The answer is that it’s unclear, but it probably won’t completely change voters’ priorities. Recent polling shows independents have a muddled view of abortion rights: While more independents think it should be legal only under certain circumstances rather than all, more of them also consider themselves pro-choice. That would seem to indicate that many independent voters haven’t thoroughly considered their views, or that they have a more complex view on the issue than activists on either side would like. Either way, while the ruling may cause some independents to reconsider their choice in some races, it probably won’t lead them to suddenly prioritize abortion rights over the economy as an issue.

The question for Maine is whether the state will be an aberration or a bellwether in this regard. This will be most readily apparent in the congressional and gubernatorial races, where the two candidates differ vastly on the issue and both are completely in line with their respective political parties. While the ruling doesn’t change their positions, it does change the power of the governor – probably helping Janet Mills win re-election. She can now portray herself as the bulwark in Maine against any attempts to limit abortion at the state level, energizing the liberal base to her side. That’s why, if the court’s decision has immediate political impact in Maine, it will probably be on the gubernatorial race: Voters may not have considered the issue in that context much before Dobbs.

The Dobbs decision, though, does have the potential to completely remake American politics in the long run, even if it won’t be a silver bullet for Democrats this year. It has the potential to completely remake the Republican Party, though perhaps not in the way you might think. For decades, the Republican Party has been built on the structure of what Ronald Reagan called a three-legged stool: social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and foreign-policy conservatives. That alliance has been frayed as of late with the recent surge in influence of the more isolationist wing of the party, but it hasn’t completely collapsed.

Even before the Dobbs decision, there was a burgeoning movement amongst social conservatives to use more government resources – that is, taxpayer money – to support families. Before Dobbs, this was a largely theoretical debate, but now one can expect it to rise more to the forefront as the pro-life movement considers its next steps. While this might insulate social conservatives from the frequent criticism that they’re pro-birth but not pro-family, it would necessitate a near-total abandonment of fiscal conservatism. Marco Rubio, for instance, recently laid out his post-Dobbs pro-family agenda, and nearly every bullet point in it would cost significant sums of money, without a true explanation of who will pay for it.

If this becomes a real trend, conservatives who prioritize fiscal discipline may well need to find a new political home – or build their own. Though their concerns may be marginalized in the near future, simple math dictates that they can’t be perpetually ignored. Even if the United States remains stable and prosperous, it can’t print money and spend recklessly forever. That’s a basic reality that the country will eventually need to confront, even if both major parties would rather ignore it.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @jimfossel


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