Heather Cox Richardson: What Does the Republican Party Believe in?


Historian Heather Cox Richardson writes today about some recent votes in Congress that defined what Republicans are against.

Republicans believe that states should control which rights are protected inside their borders. They do not believe in abortion rights. They do not believe in the right to have access to contraception. They do not believe in marriage equality. They do not believe that women have the right to cross state lines if they are pregnant. (How Will states enforce that last belief? By administering pregnancy tests to every woman under 50 who is attempting to leave a state where abortion is illegal?)

What do they believe in? Not freedom or liberty, since they legislate constraints on private action. They do believe in censorship, bans on behavior in the privacy of your bedroom, bans on topics that may be discussed in the classroom. Republicans want to restore a mythical world of white male supremacy.

Richardson writes:

Far from rejecting the idea of minority rule after seeing where it led, Republican Party lawmakers have doubled down.

They have embraced the idea that state legislatures should dominate our political system, and so in 2021, at least 19 states passed 34 laws to restrict access to voting. On June 24, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, the Supreme Court said that the federal government did not have the power, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to protect the constitutional right to abortion, bringing the other rights that amendment protects into question. When Democrats set out to protect some of those rights through federal legislation, Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly voted to oppose such laws.

In the House, Republicans voted against federal protection of an individual’s right to choose whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services: 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 99% of House Republicans.

They voted against the right to use contraception: 195 out of 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 96% of House Republicans.

They voted against marriage equality: 157 out of 204 Republicans voted no; 7 didn’t vote. That’s 77% of House Republicans.

They voted against a bill guaranteeing a woman’s right to travel across state lines to obtain abortion services: 205 out of 208 Republicans voted no; 3 didn’t vote. That’s 97% of House Republicans.

Sixty-two percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal. Seventy percent support gay marriage. More than 90% of Americans believe birth control should be legal. I can’t find polling on whether Americans support the idea of women being able to cross state lines without restrictions, but one would hope that concept is also popular. And yet, Republican lawmakers are comfortable standing firmly against the firm will of the people. The laws protecting these rights passed through the House thanks to overwhelming Democratic support but will have trouble getting past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.


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Natasha M. McKnight

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