Kicking the Hornet's nest

Published May 4, 2023

By Thomas Mills

Republicans in the legislature may have just kicked the hornets’ nest. Yesterday, they announced a plan to ban abortions after 12 weeks, with a graduated series of exceptions for instances of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. There’s no exceptions for the viability of the fetus, meaning some women will have to carry seriously deformed fetuses to term. 

North Carolina already has a 20-week ban that took effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Republicans are now expanding the ban to keep their base happy. They’re also feeding the anger of the pro-choice majority in the state and may well be awakening the young voters who are their greatest threat. 

In 2022, Democrats across the country held off the predicted Republican wave on the strength of younger voters. Unfortunately, in North Carolina, the under 40 crowd didn’t participate at the level they did in other states, leaving us with a Republican-majority Supreme Court and a Trumper as a U.S. Senator. This proposed 12-week ban, combined with the nomination of a Trump or Trump-like candidate for president, may give those voters the impetus to show up in droves next year.

The GOP is already lining up to nominate a slate of extremist candidates and adding an abortion ban could create a heightened sense of concern among Democratic leaning voters as well as the middle. Mark Robinson is the clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination for governor and Trump is likely to be the presidential nominee. Now, Axios is reporting that Dan Bishop is considering a run for attorney general. The author of HB-2 and election denier will help define the GOP as the party of extremists. 

Republicans are getting too smug with their veto-proof majority in the legislature and starting to believe their own press. North Carolina is a moderate state that’s evenly divided. Candidates like Mark Robinson and Dan Bishop will push the party in a decidedly reactionary direction that won’t appeal to moderate swing voters and may fire up the Democratic base. Passing extremist legislation like the abortion ban and a voucher scheme that shifts money from public schools to private ones will underscore the cost of electing the far right.  

Younger voters need something to vote against to drive them to the polls. In 2018, they showed up in droves to vote against Donald Trump. In 2022, turnout among voters under 40 fell by more than four percent. In contrast, it increased by about three percent among voters over 65 and held steady for middle aged voters. Given a ban on abortion, the guy called gay people “filth,” and the author of HB-2, younger people have plenty to scare them to polls in 2024.