This week, when President Biden announced his measures to protect abortion rights, I debated over whether to even listen to his speech. I live in Michigan, where our pro-choice governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is up for reelection and is running against Tudor Dixon, a candidate notorious for her extreme stance toward abortion access (she is against all abortion, in all circumstances – including the life of the woman carrying the fetus).
It’s difficult to get excited about Biden’s plans, which involve $6 million in grant monies to expand reproductive healthcare, and warnings to universities that discriminating against pregnant students—including those seeking to terminate their pregnancies—is a Title IX violation.
But most sobering of all, his plans almost completely rely on taking back the Senate. With a Democratic majority, the Senate would be able to abolish the filibuster. According to the Foley Institute, abolishing the filibuster would “probably aid in passing legislation on highly divisive issues such as healthcare or immigration.” In theory, by abolishing the filibuster, Congress would be able to lock in reproductive rights, regardless of our extreme right-wing Supreme Court.
Lovely as they are, I can’t help but to view Biden’s ideas as a pipe dream. And while there are a lot of reasons for my cynicism, the reality of the state in which I currently live is chief among my inability to put much stock in our president’s announcement.
Michigan is best described as a purple state, and that’s a generous interpretation of our political landscape. Our progressive cities and towns are lined at their perimeters by Trump flags and “Impeach Biden” yard signs. It’s all too common to see pickup trucks decorated from bumper to bumper with “Trump 2020” stickers and American flags, lest anyone forget what the flag actually looks like. We have “curriculum transparency” extremists running for school board seats up and down the state, and it’s impossible to forget the woman who went viral as Rudy Giuliani’s Michigan-based top voter fraud witness. She gained notoriety for her outlandish testimony during which she made unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud that she’d sworn had occurred at a Detroit-based polling site. She also attempted to run for legislature in Michigan, but thankfully, due to her own dishonesty, was disqualified. It took lying about traffic tickets and other debts — versus lying about a presidential election — to be removed from the ballot. C’est la vie in a purple state.
Sure, every state has its cast of characters. If there is a God, sometimes she’s kind enough to leave them wallowing in obscurity. We usually only hear about the ones who trend in our social media feeds or wind up caricatured on Saturday Night Live. But the sad reality is, Michigan is also the site of a micro-version of the January 6th siege: In April of 2020, heavily armed protestors with military-style weapons rushed the State Capitol, demanding to be let inside. Soon thereafter, our governor became the target of an intricate kidnapping plot. These are my neighbors, and they, too, are casting votes.
The Michigan Republican party controls both chambers of our state legislature. Democrats are notorious for losing seats during the midterms because of their failure to simply show up. Even if Whitmer is reelected for another term, our state has term limits for governors. The way I see it, we are never more than one election away from an extremist being voted into power.
If Dixon happens to lose this year, it’s a bug — not a feature — of our state’s political trends. My stomach is in knots every other November over these realities. Year after year, Democrat complacency ensures that extreme, fringe, and antiquated views about the world — about women — remain relevant and powerful. President Biden needs to do more than beg the American people to step up. A healthy and functional society does not necessitate that more than half of its population see its humanity up for debate during presidential, gubernatorial, and midterm elections.
This is why I can’t get excited about Biden’s speech. Unless and until democratic voters wake up, plans to secure reproductive rights are nothing more than lip service — a temporary Band-Aid before the next systematic rush to subjugate our bodies.