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Make aboriton rights as salient as possible


Whether Gretchen Whitmer will turn out to be an effective candidate if she runs for president is an open question, although I hope she does. But the success she’s had focusing on abortion rights should be emulated:

At a Detroit union hall in mid-February, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan gathered representatives from local carpenters and construction unions, along with participants in an apprenticeship program, for a round-table event to draw attention to the ways the Biden’ administration has helped organized labor. At every seat around the U-shaped table, there was a flier from Whitmer’s “Fight Like Hell” PAC, but it didn’t address jobs; it was about abortion.

“Donald Trump brags that he was the one who got rid of Roe v. Wade and is marching his party toward enacting a nationwide abortion ban,” it said. When Whitmer spoke, she made sure to hit on reproductive rights, and the economic costs of losing them. “I know in the union hall it’s maybe not the first thing we always talk about,” she said, but when, for over half the population, “the most important economic decision you’ll make in your lifetime is taken away from you, that impacts all of us.”

A month earlier, Whitmer, the co-chair of Joe Biden’s re-election campaign and perhaps his most important Michigan surrogate, told “Face the Nation” that the president should speak more often about abortion, a word he’s been reluctant to use. Now, she was demonstrating how it’s done.


Whitmer manages the neat trick of coming off as both an edgy progressive pugilist and a stolid Midwestern pragmatist. When she was feuding with Trump over pandemic lockdowns, the Detroit rapper Gmac Cash dropped a track dubbing her “Big Gretch,” a nickname that’s stuck. (“All that protestin’ was irrelevant/Big Gretch ain’t tryna hear y’all or the president.”) But as much as the far right abhors Whitmer — nine men are in prison for a plot to kidnap and possibly assassinate her — in her 2022 re-election bid, she won several counties that had gone for Trump two years earlier, including Macomb, historically seen as a bellwether of national political sentiment.

Perhaps the most important thing about her right now, though, is her fierce defense of abortion rights and her comfort talking about the subject at a time when it’s moved to the molten center of American politics. When the Supreme Court decision scrapping Roe, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, came down in June 2022, Michigan still had a 1931 abortion prohibition on the books. Whitmer led the way in making sure it never went back into effect, campaigning hard for a 2022 ballot measure making abortion a state constitutional right. Jessica Mackler, interim president of Emily’s List, said that at a moment when women in Michigan, as well as much of America, didn’t know if they were about to lose their bodily autonomy, and with it the power to shape their own lives, “Gretchen Whitmer was the leader who was standing there saying, ‘I’m going to fight like hell and protect these rights for you.’”

“Donald Trump overruled Roe v. Wade” is a message that cannot possibly be repeated often enough. The more voters think abortion is a high-priority issue the better chance Democrats will have in a national election.

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