The End of Roe Could Energize Democrats’ Burned-Out Base

TFor a time, the mood among Democratic organizers was bleak. After four years under Donald Trump, the base is exhausted. Two-plus years of COVID-19 have made activists burn-out. Democrats feel demoralized by the stalled work of the Biden Administration on issues such as child care and climate change. Many believe the party will be a “wood-chipper” in November and offer voters little.

“Right now we have trifecta government and they are doing nothing,” says Amanda Litman, who runs Run for Something, which recruits young Democrats to run for state and local office. “It’s very hard right now to make the case for why Democrats should be in control, besides reducing harm.”

But the case for “reducing harm” got a lot more persuasive this week, with the publication of a leaked document suggested that a majority of the Supreme Court—including three justices nominated by Trump—is on the brink of overturning Roe v. Wade.

Learn More How to Get the Leaked Roe-v. Wade Supreme Court Draft Objection.

Bad as this would be from liberals’ perspective, the prospect may re-energize an exhausted base. “This is probably the best thing that could have happened from an electoral standpoint, in terms of animating Democrats,” says Jess Morales Rocketto, a Democratic strategist who has organized around progressive issues like reproductive rights.

It couldn’t come at a more important time. The grassroots organizers who powered the party’s wins in 2018 and 2020 say that the last few years have left them burnt out. Women were among the anti-Trump Resistance’s most dedicated members. Many women carried the worst burdens of the pandemic.

“People were exhausted,” says Carolyn Eberly, founder of a North Carolina Indivisible group that organized Democratic volunteers in the 2018 midterms, a 2019 special election, and the 2020 Presidential race. “Covid really set us back. People wanted to kind of withdraw a little bit, look at the big picture, at what’s important for me and my family.”

Eberly believes that outrage has spurred women to take action. “Without this, the midterms were kind of questionable in terms of people’s involvement,” she says. “I feel like there are other women that are gonna jump into this that haven’t been involved before, that are really going to be energized.”

Learn More Battle Over the Future of the Anti-Abortion Movement If the Supreme Court Overturns Roe V. Wade

2018 was a year when many Democrats discovered community within their local organizing organizations, especially in conservative parts. The anti-Trump passion helped many groups to triumph over the pandemic in 2020 and deliver Biden victory. People began to become sick of the Zoom calls and their many heads in 2021. Local organizers began to see their enthusiasm wane in 2022.

“I’m not sure I would call it malaise. I would call it fatigue, for sure,” says Vicki Miller, who runs an Indivisible group in the Philadelphia area that absorbed another local group after the leaders decided they were done with activism. “I’ve heard from other Indivisible groups that they’ve seen a drop-off in engagement.”

This is the threat RoeAccording to activists, it could be a catalyst for these women who are tired and depressed. “People are tired, but they’re more outraged than they are tired,” says Rosemary Dixon, who runs an Indivisible group in Prescott, Ariz. “It’s an apathy remover.”

“It’s a horrible thing to say, but in a way, it’s a gift to progressive organizers,” Dixon adds.

Learn More If Roe v. Wade gets overturned, these states will ban abortion

Aimy Steele was inspired in Georgia by Stacey Abrams. In 2021, the New North Carolina Project was established to encourage year-round engagement with voters of colour. The topic of abortion is still “taboo” in some Black communities, she says, but the leak of the draft majority opinion written by Justice Alito “has had massive impact, especially in communities of color,” she says. “People are being more alert. They’re sounding the alarms,” she says, adding that “they’re engaging in almost George-Floyd-summer-of-protest style engagement.”

As the past few years have shown, even a tiny minority of motivated women can tip the election.

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