Not Abortion, Not Woke

Once again neither political party is speaking to me.

I think the Democrats may be taking the wrong message from Janet Protasiewicz’s big win here last week. It’s true that she made it an up-or-down vote on abortion, but it’s also true that she won by almost exactly the same margin as liberal Jill Karofsky did in 2020, before Roe was overturned. It could be that Daniel Kelly was just a crummy candidate, as he was on the short end of both of those votes.

And, for their part, the Republicans seem to think that it’s all about gender-affirming pronouns and that Disney is destroying the moral fabric of the nation. Look out for the big Mouse. He’s a subversive. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken this so far as to risk becoming a caricature of himself.

Now, to be clear, we here at YSDA are both pro-choice and anti-woke. But we’re also more moderate than activists on either issue. We’re of the “safe, legal and rare” school on abortion and more in the “let’s not discriminate against anybody, but let’s not lose our minds” camp on woke. We flatter ourselves that our views on these things might reflect those of the bulk of Americans, though certainly not of the headline grabbing ideologues who speak for the parties.

More to the point, we don’t think that either issue deserves its star billing. Most women continue to have access to abortion and woke is mostly just annoying. What’s higher on our list? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe climate change, an aging society with implications for productivity and Social Security, the future of liberal democracy, an increasingly threatening Russia and a more aggressive China, the competition for influence in Africa, the continuing threat of nuclear war or terrorism, the fact that 75 million Americans actually thought that a second term for Donald Trump was a good idea. We could go on, but you get the picture. Even if you’re passionate about abortion or woke, can you honestly say that your issue is more pressing than any of those?

This strikes us as a bigger issue than abortion or woke.

The parties are pursuing these issues because they see them as winners. Democrats believe, with some good evidence, that abortion kept them from disaster last November. The Republican case for the electoral efficacy of woke seems shakier to me. They can point to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s upset win in Virginia where he was able to capitalize on parents’ concerns over what was being taught in public schools, but beyond that the evidence gets pretty thin.

But whether or not they’re right about the political juice in these issues, neither one rises to the level of the others listed above. It would be nice if we had at least one serious party in the United States.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “Not Abortion, Not Woke

  1. All good points as always. I think the abortion issue might have been a strong enough single issue to drive up turnout in key areas. Also true that Dan Kelly was a flawed candidate and Trump is a vote loser, toxic drag on the GOP ticket. Single issue questions on ballot do not always line up with other political choices, recent example in WI was when Democrats overperformed statewide in 2006 only to have a same sex marriage amendment go down in flames, nearly 60%-40%. I am a huge fan of Janet and thrilled about new liberal majority. 2 critical issues seem inevitable for the Supreme Court in October and the timing creates questions, concerns. First, in order for any new maps to get implemented, the Court would have to move very fast on that one. And, a Court decision on abortion means the issue loses value in Fall 2024 election, any delay would appear like partisan effort to keep activists gainfully employed. Such a move would be pointless: there is no scenario for 2024 even with new maps that would result in state legislation akin to Roe V Wade


  2. Yes, well, you fail to mention that there at least one political party that is interested in actually governing when given the opportunity – and one that is solely about power. It’s too bad that both parties have to give undue attention to the more extreme elements in order to win elections, but at least the Dems attempt to improve society. Look at what Joe Biden has accomplished, and look at what Tony Evers has prevented the GOP “wrecking crew” from doing.


  3. I also think the abortion issue saved the Democrats this time. Kelly was an awful candidate; who I voted for.

    And I agree with you that nuclear war trumps abortion rights and woke. For me, orders of magnitude more important.

    Question for you – why do you think 75 million Americans voted for Trump?


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