Strategy

It never ceases to amaze me how many conservatives don’t understand political strategy.

I recently wrote a post about the outrageous assertions by Democrats in the Texas legislature that a GOP-led bill to place new restrictions on abortion. In it, I detailed the process of reporting a rape and how it is investigated. I said that once a forensic nurse finishes her exam, the victim is given several prescriptions, one of them for the morning-after pill. This process tells the truth about the Democrat claims that SB5 would “virtually ban” abortion in Texas because the GOP refused to add an exception for cases of rape and incest. Whether by ignorance or on purpose, Democrats preyed heavily on the emotions of those who believe women should have the right to have an abortion if they are raped. The claim was outrageous on its face, but the GOP missed a crucial opportunity.

The Texas GOP adamantly refused to add exceptions to the bill for instances of rape and incest. As previously mentioned, the argument falls flat when you know what really happens, but that matters none. A lie, repeated often enough, becomes truth – and the Democrats had not only their followers but those on the fence and the independent voters in their pocket as well because they kept beating the same drum over and over again.

They had an opportunity to shut them up by adding such exceptions. SB5’s author, Jodie Laubenberg, made a major faux pas when she claimed that a rape kit contained a procedure that would “clean you out”, thus avoiding pregnancy – while on the right track, she was still off the mark and the mistake was an embarrassing one. The Democrats ended up using it in their favor. Wendy Davis, representing the Fort Worth area, announced, planned, and carried out an 11-hour filibuster to avoid the vote taking place before the end of the special session.

Even people I know who are more conservative than anything else in their political views held up her actions as nothing short of heroic. They didn’t know the truth about her claims, but they knew what she and Senfronia Thompson were claiming. This bill wouldn’t have come anywhere close to “virtually banning” abortion in Texas, but the Democrats led everyone to believe it, all because the GOP refused to budge on the issue of making exceptions for rape and incest in the bill.

Will the bill pass in the next special session? As long as Wendy Davis doesn’t hold out for another 11 hours, it likely will. It is absolutely criminal that the Democrats in Texas are so ardently against a bill that would enact stringent requirements for abortion clinics, safety measures that are badly needed. They wailed and moaned about an abortion ban forcing women to choose unsafe methods for terminating pregnancies, but none of them are willing to face the reality that a lot of abortion clinics are already very unsafe – with unsanitary conditions, unsterilized instruments and untrained staff that are acceptable because there are almost no requirements at all for abortion clinics. The Democrats, however, will oppose any such bill on principle alone because they can’t stand the idea of there being any limits on what they call “a woman’s right to choose.”

What the GOP did in their stalwart refusal, however, is far worse than just stand their ground. They couldn’t properly articulate their stance on the rape exception and as a result fell flat on their collective face. In so doing they gift-wrapped an amazing opportunity and practically hand-delivered it to Wendy Davis.

Davis has ambition to go much further than the State Senate. With this moment in her pocket, she stands a very good chance of one day landing a stint as governor. That’s not something I’m sure I want to live with. The conservatives in Texas seem to think that their majority can never be broken. Conservatives in Colorado once believed the same thing, and now their state has passed among the toughest gun control laws in the country. In short, the Texas GOP set her up for future victory. All because they can’t stand the thought of giving an inch of ground in one simple battle.

Was the Democrat argument silly? Yes. Were they wrong in their claims? Yes. Those two facts have not stopped the Democrats from gaining a foothold, however small it may be. Fellow conservatives from my home state are mad at me right now, calling me an “underground moderate” and telling me, “we’re conservatives, Mel. We don’t play games.” Unfortunately, the liberals in this case ARE playing games. Because they’re better at strategizing, they’re winning that game.

Adding an exception wouldn’t have been appeasement. It wouldn’t have even been the “moderate” thing to do. It would have taken the wind out of the Democrats’ sails. Now, if the bill doesn’t pass in the next special session without making that exception, it will still be seen as a loss. They have no choice but to make certain they pass it as is. As time goes on, Wendy Davis will be waiting for the next moment of stubborn weakness so she can play the game some more. The GOP needs to learn how to play this game or we’ll all be sent home.

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