Voices: Republicans are trying to have it both ways on abortion

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (Getty Images)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (Getty Images)

One of the most iconic scenes from Chappelle’s Show comes when Rick James, recalling his days partying with Charlie Murphy, refutes a claim that he grinded his feet on Eddie Murphy’s couch. “What am I gonna do?” he says. “Just all of a sudden jump up and grind my feet on somebody’s couch like it’s something to do?” And then, a few seconds later: “Yeah, I remember grinding my feet on Eddie’s couch.”

Now, Republicans are pulling the same move as the Superfreak himself.

Most Republicans know overturning Roe v Wade could be an albatross around their necks in 2022. Hence they spent the past two days fuming about the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe rather than saying it’s a reason for celebration. When your dispatcher asked many Republicans whether they thought there should be punishments, they either said they would not comment until the actual opinion was released or said they should be left to the states.

But some Republicans can’t help themselves, and “habitual line-stepper” Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida least of all. On Wednesday, the Republican Party’s resident Florida Man tweeted that women distressed about the end of the 1973 court ruling were all “over-educated, under-loved millennials who sadly return from protests to a lonely microwave dinner with their cats, and no Bumble matches”. This stands in stark contrast to the measured language Republicans meted out or their attempt to distract from the opinion’s extremely unpopular implications and focus public attention on the circumstances of the leak.

Meanwhile, when your dispatcher asked Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose state has some of the tightest restrictions on people seeking an abortion, whether there should be consequences for doctors who provide abortions, he played the part of Rick James saying that he had more sense than to grind his feet on Eddie’s couch, saying how this would simply put power back in the hands of states, which is in line with conservative ideas about giving states more power.

“Every Democrat is giving speeches right now about how this undermines democracy,” he told your dispatcher. “The irony meter ought to fall over and hit them in the head because if this decision overturns Roe, it is an historic victory for democracy. It is literally putting the question in the hands of the Democrats: ‘You idiot voters don’t get to vote on this, we hate democracy and by the way, we say this in defense of democracy’.”

Mr Cruz’s framing positions Republicans as reasonable and Democrats as condescending and mistrustful of voters. But then, friend of the newsletter Sahil Kapur of NBC News asked the senator about Congress enacting limits on abortion.

“I am sure I’ve supported numerous federal bills and I’m sure there will be more pieces of federal legislation that are considered,” he replied. “Congress, like the state legislatures, is an elected body representative and the legitimacy on this issue is resolving these contested policy issues through the democratically elected body so that the people ultimately have the sovereignty and the authority.”

In other words: “Yeah, I remember grinding my feet on Eddie’s couch.” After speaking in paragraphs about allowing California and New York to have different abortion laws from Texas, Cruz just said he wanted legislation on the federal level. And why wouldn’t he? If Republicans think life begins at conception, why would they allow state laws to supersede that?

Partisanship, it turns out, is a hell of a drug.