The already thin rationale remained for the Wendy Davis campaign for governor of Texas gets thinner, as the desperate candidate performed one of the biggest walkbacks in memory and essentially disavowed the one thing that made her famous: a filibuster to block abortion restrictions that would have banned the procedure on infants at 20 weeks. She already scrubbed all mention of the infamous “pink sneaker” filibuster off her Web site.
Now she says she’s actually fine with that 20-week abortion ban; she really just had a few quibbles with the nature of the exceptions. She ended up repeating most of her opponents’ arguments to the Dallas Morning News:
Davis, a Fort Worth senator and the likely Democratic nominee for governor, told The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board that less than one-half of 1 percent of Texas abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most of those were in cases where fetal abnormalities were evident or there were grave risks to the health of the woman.
“I would line up with most people in Texas who would prefer that that’s not something that happens outside of those two arenas,” Davis said.
But the Democrat said the state’s new abortion law didn’t give priority to women in those circumstances. The law allows for exceptions for fetal abnormalities and a threat to the woman’s life, but Davis said those didn’t go far enough.
“My concern, even in the way the 20-week ban was written in this particular bill, was that it didn’t give enough deference between a woman and her doctor making this difficult decision, and instead tried to legislatively define what it was,” Davis said.
Thus does the great defiant heroine of the abortion lobby embrace a position they would normally deride as pro-life extremism. It’s a pretty big symbolic win for the pro-life movement. Considering how much energy the Left poured into making Davis a celebrity, it might be a game-changer to see her essentially re-defining her erstwhile supporters and national admirers as out-of-touch fringe extremists.
The point of the abortion variety of gesture liberalism is to focus and unleash hatred against pro-lifers, building useful political solidarity by demonizing a common enemy. That becomes very difficult to do when the darling of the abortion movement declares herself 95 percent in agreement with what her supporters define as mindless religious intolerance. She’s singing “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” to the “I Stand With Wendy” crowd. The “Hail Satan!“ wing is going to be so disappointed with her.
In practical terms, the Wendy Davis who thinks her own filibuster was pointless and silly still wants open-ended exceptions that make her concession to the abortion ban largely rhetorical (or, if you prefer, render her previous opposition largely a matter of over-the-top grandstanding.) No matter what she says now, she did indeed oppose the ban during the pink-sneaker filibuster, without any of the qualifications she now offers.
Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List sounds less than completely convinced by Davis’ eleventh-hour transformation into a pro-lifer:
“National and Texas-based polling shows Wendy Davis’ extreme abortion position is repellant to voters, including women, young people, and Hispanics. Most Americans simply can’t stomach the brutality of late abortion and are moving towards compassionate, common ground limits. Only political desperation could cause Davis to try to give the appearance of moving with them, while at the same time maintaining abortion as her ‘sacred ground,’ and eviscerating the goals of the legislation.”
Davis is not just the usual triangulating Democrat trying to hoodwink a red-state audience into thinking she’s a moderate. (There are no more Democrat moderates, especially on the issue of abortion; nothing they say on the campaign trail will matter when it’s time for lockstep loyalty on the important votes.) She’s the towering media-anointed champion of abortion rights, invariably described as a “rising star” by mainstream media outlets even as her poll numbers slip, standing up to all the woman-hating Republicans who don’t understand the vital importance of a woman’s virtually unrestricted Right to Choose. It says something about the state of the abortion debate that its center of gravity has shifted enough to make Davis decide she doesn’t want a seat on that pedestal.
She’s also been doing some very elaborate re-positioning on gun control, announcing a support for open-carry laws that she very quickly found it necessary to hammer into a twisted shape that fits more comfortably with Party orthodoxy. From the Houston Chronicle:
Sen. Wendy Davis got some criticism from her own party when she came out for open carry of handguns, but she emphasized Monday there are some caveats in her position.
The Fort Worth Democrat said that entities including cities should be able to make their own decisions not only on any proposed open-carry law but on the existing law allowing licensed people to carry concealed handguns.
“Obviously in Texas we have a culture that respects the Second Amendment right and privilege of owning and carrying guns — but we also, of course, have respect and understand a the rights and privileges of property owners to make decisions about what’s right for them,” said Davis, who is expected to face Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott in the general-election in the race for governor.
“My position on open carry reflects my respect for both of those principles, and I believe that municipalities, school districts, hospitals, private property owners should be the ones that ultimately have a say as to whether this is right for them and their facilities,” she said.
A reporter, saying that cities cannot preempt the current concealed handgun law, asked whether municipalities should be able to ban open-carry at the city limits.
Davis, pointing to her time as a city official, said, “My position on that is consistent both on open and concealed carry. I do believe that municipalities should be able to make that decision for themselves. I sat on the City Council in Fort Worth when that decision was made for us.
“I believe that local control means local control, and we should respect municipalities’ positions and opinions in these matters and we shouldn’t make the decision for them,” she said.
A spokesman for Davis’ Republican opponent responded simply that “Greg Abbott believes that Texans’ constitutional rights don’t stop at the city limits.”
Democrats, as a group, were not enchanted by their gubernatorial contender’s sudden reinvention as a gunslinger, as related by Fox News:
“There is little or no public safety justification for open carry,” said Emmanuel Garcia, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party.
Kellye Burke, who leads the Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, also opposes Davis’ position. She said the open carry of firearms, whether rifles or pistols, “is meant to be a sign of intimidation. It’s not about protection.”
“I don’t think people are aware of it. They just haven’t seen it yet. People are completely shocked how strange and lawless it looks to have that kind of firepower in our daily life,” Burke said.
They’ll swallow these objections and line up for Davis on command when it counts, of course, but any Texans tempted to put stock in her new positions should remember that she’ll be facing this kind of pressure from within her own party on gun control when the chips are down. ”Wendy Davis has a very bad record as far as gun owners go,” Texas State Rifle Association spokeswoman Alice Tripp noted. It’s certainly not going to improve if she gets into office and sees no further reason to pose as a moderate.
This is hardly the first time a vanity candidacy has run into trouble when the not-ready-for-prime-time candidate ended up on the wrong side of the electorate, tried to make a few quick political adjustments, and found both supporters and opponents less than pleased by the results. It might have more consequences than usual because of how much national attention was invested in Davis’ campaign. It’s hard to walk away from being an icon of ideology.