November 8, 2022 General Election Analysis
This analysis, though candidly reporting on Pa.'s disappointing results, serves to remind us that Elections and public policy challenges in Pa. continue - and pro-life advances can still be achieved. This analysis provides some worthwhile macro reflections on politics, our culture, and the Church.
Pro-life Pa. Sen. Doug Mastriano lost to pro-abortion Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro by 2,996,882 (56.31%) to 2,229,532 (41.89%).
For some context, the following is a report on Pa.'s three prior Governor races.
Wolf (D) 54.93% 1,920,355
Corbett (R) 45.07% 1,575,511
Wolf (D) 57.77% 2,895,652
Wagner (R) 40.70% 2,039,882
Shapiro (D) 56.31% 2,996,882
Mastriano (R) 41.89% 2,229,532
Moreover, here are some other election results from 2016 and 2020.
2016 - President
Clinton (D) 47.85% 2,926,441
Trump (R) 48.58% 2,970,733
2016 - Senate
McGinty (D) 47.34% 2,865,012
Toomey (R) 48.77% 2,951,702
2020 - President
Biden (D) 50.01% 3,458,229
Trump (R) 48.84% 3,377,674
The Governor results confirmed the validity for one of the principal reasons for our endorsing Dave White in the May 17, 2022 Pa. Governor Republican Primary, i.e., Doug Mastriano was ill-suited to run in a statewide General Election. In addition to his "General Election baggage," Doug's gratuitously poor campaign included a refusal to communicate with, not just the secular media, but also with supporters, including leaders in the pro-life movement. Sen. Rick Santorum publicly called it a "covert campaign."
Doug never waffled on his pro-life position. But he (almost intentionally) failed to develop the resources to respond to Shapiro's plethora of attacks on his "extreme" pro-life position and to expose Shapiro's very pro-abortion position and record. Shapiro did attempt to deceptively disguise that position by declaring, "I support current Pa. law."
Given his poor campaign, the number of votes that Doug received constitutes a slight positive, as it provides a "floor" for future statewide Republican candidates. However that "floor" also means that it will be difficult to defeat Mastriano-type candidates in future Republican Primary Elections.
Fetterman's win still almost remains inexplicable. In Southwest and in rural parts of Pa., he apparently won about 10% of 2020 Trump voters because of his "working man's image" without losing Democrat voters in the Philadelphia's suburbs. Oz' lack of ties to Pa. aided Fetterman in this appeal.
Oz had competitive resources (He spent $25 million of his own money.) but never responded to the "abortion issue" attacks by Fetterman and his allies. Instead, as Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America described, Oz adopted the "ostrich strategy."
Pa. Legislative Races
These races mostly proved successful for incumbents. Mastriano's big loss hurt some Republicans and apparently offset the negative economic circumstances for Democrats.
Pa.'s U.S. House Delegation went from 9D-9R to 9D-8R and the Pa. Senate went from 29R-21D to 28R-22D with no incumbents losing.
The Pa. House went from 113R-90D to 102D-101R, mainly because reapportionment placed 12 Republicans in Districts against each other or in significantly new Districts. In Southeast Pa., Mastriano's big loss probably caused Rep. Todd Polinchock (Bucks) and Rep. Todd Stephens (Montgomery) to each lose by about 50 votes. Democrat control of the Pa. House (with the Speakership and Committee Chairs) means the inability to move any pro-life legislative initiatives.
However, some upcoming "political maneuvering" could delay or prevent Democrat control of the Pa. House. One elected Democrat has died, one was elected Lieutenant Governor and one was elected to the U.S. House. Democrats would need to win Special Elections to fill these seats to gain control.
Pa. Public Policy Issues
Abortion-Neutral Pennsylvania Constitutional Amendment
These Election results mean that there is now insufficient votes in the Pa. House to achieve Second Passage of our abortion-neutral Amendment to the Pa. Constitution. Furthermore, based on lessons from referenda results in other States, even if we still had the votes in the Pa. House, Second Passage should be delayed unless and until there is a poor Pa. Supreme Court (PSC) decision on the "Allegheny Women's Center" (AWC) lawsuit.
In January 2019, 16 Pa. abortion chambers (listed alphabetically, so AWC is listed first) filed a lawsuit in Pa. Commonwealth Court seeking an end to Pa.'s abortion funding restrictions, which, since 1985, have reduced abortions annually by 5,000. These abortion chambers are making this request by petitioning the PSC to invent a "right to abortion" in Pa.'s Constitution by reversing its 1986 6-1 Fisher decision, which declared no such right existed. In March 2022, the Pa. Commonwealth Court ruled against the AWC and the other abortion chambers, which then appealed to the PSC.
On October 26, the PSC held a hearing on the AWC et al appeal of this Pa. Commonwealth Court decision. The PSC currently has a 4-2 D majority because of the recent death of D Max Baer. However, R Kevin Brobson recused himself because he had previously ruled on this case as a member of Commonwealth Court. So, for the Commonwealth Court ruling to be affirmed, two D PSC Justices would have to rule against the AWC, et al. Pro-life legal observers at the October 26th hearing have concluded that achieving those two votes was unlikely.
Maintaining Abortion Alternatives Funding and Preventing Telemedicine Legislation from Undermining Pennsylvania's Informed Consent Law
During the 2023-24 Term, Pa. pro-abortion forces are likely to take at least two legislative initiatives. They will seek to eliminate state funding for Real Alternatives, which assists Pa. pregnancy resource centers in their life-saving work. The Pa. House and Senate D Caucuses recently held "hearings" to expose the "dangerous and deceptive" practices of these centers.
In April 2020, the Pa. House and Senate passed a widely supported expansion of Telemedicine (in response to the COVID Pandemic). The Pa. House inserted an Amendment to ensure that such an expansion did not negate the informed consent provisions of Pa.'s Abortion Control Act. Because of this insertion, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed this legislation.
In 2021, the Pa. Senate again passed this legislation without the pro-life amendment. The Pa. House Health Committee again inserted this Amendment, but the House never passed it because Gov. Wolf again committed to veto this Telemedicine expansion legislation because of the pro-life amendment.
So, given that the Pa. House might not have the votes, the Pa. pro-life movement (PLM) needs to ensure that the Pa. Senate passes any such legislation with the pro-life amendment.
Stopping Pennsylvania Funding for the University of Pittsburgh Because of the Fetal Harvesting at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Pro-life forces in the Pa. House still have the capability to stop "non-preferred" funding for Pitt in the 2024 Budget because a 2/3 vote is required to approve such funding. Our task will be to persuade pro-life R House Members to hold firm to this opposition even if such opposition produces a "Budget Impasse."
Mitigating the Pennsylvania's Abortion Industry's Routine Cover-Up of the Sexual Abuse of Minors
A principal reason for this cover-up is that the Pa. DOH is not a mandated reporter. So, when their annual inspections reveal that an abortion chamber is not making the required reports for abortions committed on underage (i.e., 15 or younger) girls, the DOH inspectors are not required to report this failure to law enforcement.
Rep. Tim Bonner's R.E.S.C.U.E. Bill (Reporting Evidence of Sexual Contact and Underage Exploitation) would correct this oversight. In April 2021, such legislation (S.B.970) passed the Pa. Senate Health Committee (with support from some D Senators) but was never considered by the full Senate. Passage of such legislation is a realistic goal during the 20023-24 Term.
The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Movement's Immediate Political Challenge
One of the most significant achievements of the Pa. pro-life movement has been the transformation of the Pa. GOP from a mixed position, with many statewide candidates being pro-abortion (e.g., Heinz, Specter, Scranton, Hafer, and Ridge) to a Party that mostly runs candidates who take a pro-life position. Sad to say, the D Party has gone in the opposite direction, as almost all its candidates take a pro-abortion position. Please read the article by Paul Kengor in the November 9, 2022 National Catholic Register about "Pa.'s 2 Caseys."
The 2022 election results could place this achievement in jeopardy. So, the Pa. pro-life movement faces the challenge, beginning with the 2023 Pa. Supreme Court race, and then the 2024 Pa. AG Race, to motivate the R Party to continue nominating pro-life candidates while avoiding nominating Mastriano-type candidates, who are almost certain to lose a General Election.
At least three positive developments occurred. Republican control of the U.S. House almost guarantees that the Hyde Amendment will be maintained regardless of the final composition of the U.S. Senate. In 2021, the Hyde Amendment continued by only one vote, i.e., D Sen. Joe Manchin.
Every Governor who recently signed pro-life legislation and faced re-election won, i.e., in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas. Also, Gov. Ron DeSantis' huge re-election victory in Florida provides a realistic possibility that he can be a successful pro-life Presidential candidate in 2024.
The biggest negatives were the loss of the five referenda, by varying margins, in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana (which was a poorly worded initiative to protect children who survive abortion), and Vermont. The passage of the pro-abortion Michigan Constitutional Amendment proved particularly hurtful because of the State's well organized and previously successful (in passing pro-life legislation) pro-life movement. We also recommend the linked November 10, 2022 National Catholic Register article about these losses. Some analyses/lessons learned includes the following.
1. Almost all Ds (along with a slight percentage of Rs) vote on the pro-abortion side of these referenda. This reality should further motivate us to routinely proclaim the default immorality of being a D.
2. Money for TV and social media ads (mostly from out-of-state megadonors, such as George Soros) matters and overcame the pro-life advantage in the "ground game," i.e., canvassing, yard signs and banners, church presentations, etc.
A silver lining is the opportunity to continue this "ground game" to spread the pro-life message and increase participation.
3. The distortions and outright lies by the Culture of Death - and their media allies - proved effective
A. at persuading "soft pro-life voters" that pro-life laws would result in the elimination of treatment for ectopic pregnancy and/or miscarriage.
B. at persuading "mushy majority middle/soft pro-choice" voters (i.e., those who claim opposition to abortion after the first trimester except for the "hard cases") to vote for legal abortion until birth because they (falsely) believed that the other option was a "no exceptions abortion ban."
4. As explained further in a macro reflection, the pro-life position is harmed when it is perceived to be mainly represented by politicians, i.e., those seeking to win an election, rather than other advocates, such as medical professionals and personal anecdotes.
5. Roe v. Wade's 49-year abortion regime has made many Americans "comfortable" with - even entitled to - legal abortion. Our movement needs to generate discomfort by reminding them that abortion is unjust and deadly violence against other innocent human beings.
6. The reversal of Roe has motivated more pro-abortion citizens into activism (particularly 18-29-year-old women) than pro-life citizens. Developing new and younger pro-life activists must continue - and increase - in priority for the pro-life movement.
In the early 2000s, numerous secular polls (e.g., the annual UCLA Survey of incoming freshman) indicated that young people took a more pro-life/less pro-abortion position than their Baby Boomer parents. However, in the past 15 years, the PLM's outreach efforts to youth (Many of whom now get their info from social media/YouTube, etc.) have not proven effective.
Macro Reflection: Politics, Culture, and the Church
We are linking an excellent article by Maggie Gallagher and Frank Cannon from the December 2017 issue of First Things. This article acknowledges the accuracy of the adage, "Politics in downstream of Culture." However, it also argues that since Roe, the reverse has also proven to be accurate, i.e., "Politics" (i.e., elections and legislation) has kept the "abortion issue" in the public square. Thus, the pro-life side had, despite abortion being a widely practiced "constitutional right," at least maintained public opinion on the issue. To encourage your reading of this attached four-page, highly insightful article, we quote its second paragraph.
"Politics allows the American people to give public form to what they believe to be true, good, and important; it is also the main way Americans decide which views are "within the pale" and which are beyond it. Elites of the left dominate most other domains: the mainstream media, the academy, the arts, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and increasingly the Chamber of Commerce and corporate suites. When an idea or issue drops out of politics, therefore, progressives can easily stigmatize it as outside the mainstream, extremist, and intolerable, effectively ending conversation. But election results feed back into culture. Political realities can override the dictates of the left, as Trump's election reminds us."
They advanced their point by contrasting a significant change in public opinion about "same-sex marriage" once the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell decision removed that issue from "politics" and public square debate. (Now, the "policies" of transgender ideology is returning some of the issues in this debate to the public square.)
The PLM should remain highly grateful for the public officials who have faithfully and articulately advanced pro-life positions in the public square, such as U.S. Reps. Henry Hyde and Chris Smith, and Pa.'s Rep Steve Freind. However, the PLM needs to improve our efforts to advance pro-life public square arguments by non-politicians, which is admittedly difficult because currently, most public square debates on the "abortion issue" arise from politics.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. achieved one successful example on March 25, 2009 on the Oprah show with Michael J. Fox, who clearly showed symptoms of his Parkinson's. The PLM was losing the public square debate on this issue, as demonstrated by the 2006 loss of several state referenda on public funding for embryonic stem cell research and recent votes in the U.S. House.
However, on this show, Dr. Oz pinched Michael's skin on his arm and declared, "The cure to your Parkinson's is right here" and explained that adult stem cells had proven successful in curing diseases such as Parkinson's while embryonic stem cells have not. Subsequent scientific developments and medical treatments regarding adult stem cells have resulted in the cessation of public square advocacy for embryonic stem cell research.
Meanwhile, while politics still remains downstream of Culture, Culture remains downstream of the Church, as well as being harmed by the continuing negative impact of the Sexual Revolution. We believe that the Church (both laity and clergy) need to cease the timidity that we have shown since Dobbs and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Life to a Culture deeply infected by the Culture of Death - and challenge Jesus' Disciples to act on this Gospel faithfully and zealously.