We Need a Green Wave: Confronting “Blue Tsunami” Bullshit on Abortion Rights

Image by Gayatri Malhotra.

“Democrats we call your bluff, voting blue is not enough!”

— chant led by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights activists at Women’s March rallies across the United States on Saturday, October 8, 2022.

The arch-patriarchal Christian fascist war on abortion that rose to new Hellish heights after the United States Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision reversed a prior Court’s historic 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling last June is a monumentally significant issue in and in of itself.  It is unleashing despicable horror on women, girls, and medical professionals across the nation. I’ve outlined key aspects of this Great Sexist Terror in a previous essay.

Things have only gotten worse for women and girls since that piece was published and the terror is not limited to pregnant and potentially pregnant people. The damage and dread spread by Dobbs encompasses doctors and other medical professionals trying to negotiate a perilous, literally sickening new legal landscape where physicians have to consult lawyers before taking actions to save patients from harm and death. It extends to patients whose care is now compromised even in relation to conditions not involving pregnancy. As abortion rights activists chant: “right to life, that’s a lie; they don’t care if women die.”

The women hating Republi-fascists’ war on Roe has always been about right to birth, not “right to life.”  Once poor and working-class women’s unwanted babies take their first breaths outside the womb (the real beginning of life, by the way), the nation’s rightmost major party couldn’t care less about the newborns’ subsequent life prospects and circumstances. The “Republicans” are dedicated enemies of adequate social protection, schooling, and care. They viciously denounce and demonize as supposedly evil “socialism” the supports poor families and children desperately need to “thrive” in this savagely separate and unequal nation. How darkly perfect is it that the nation’s mostly virulently anti-abortion states are also the U.S. states that grant the least in the way of social welfare for poor and working class kids and families  – and that they are the states with the nation’s highest (globally scandalous) rates of maternal and infant mortality?

Republi-fascist Gilead

But let’s keep in mind the wider political context of the Republi-Handmaid attack on women and girls. The same people inflicting this sexist horror are also waging interrelated and overlapping wars on Black civil rights, immigrant rights, worker rights, gay rights, transgender rights, voting rights, livable ecology, science, truth, intellectual freedom, and the right to teach our children real and non-racist history.  From Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, Amy Coney-Barrett and Clarence Thomas down to the state-level policy makers who are criminalizing “critical race theory” (real American history with racial oppression included) and imposing forced motherhood, these malevolent fossil fascists want to bring back the Jim Crow era, mass book-burning, Native American genocide, old-age poverty for the non-affluent, and uncontrolled air and water pollution. These racist and woman-hating Republi-fascists would like to set up concentration camps for the homeless and poor. They want to turn the country into a Hobbesian shooting gallery where mass-homicidal assault rifles are a household staple. They advocate right-wing political violence to the point of civil war and are deliberately scheming to cancel popular votes in the 2024-25 presidential election. They want to accelerate the process of turning the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber – a crime beyond anything Hitler imagined.

Remember: Margaret Atwood’s remarkable dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale portrays an ecologically devasted and sexist future in which forced-birth motherhood is part of a violent arch-racist and fascist takeover of the United States. (Contrary to childish liberal and faux-radical arguments made against wearing Handmaid costumes at abortion rights rallies, Black women are absent from the novel not because of any racism on Atwood’s part but because the novel’s plot involves the prior fascist racial and ethnic cleansing of the nation’s nonwhite population).

Today’s “Gilead” (the name of Atwood’s fictional fascist state) proponents aren’t just about going back to the pre-Roe years. Supreme Court “justice” Amy Coney Barrett — a real-life Handmaid in the Christian fascist cult People of Praise — is part of a movement for which undoing Roe v. Wade is only the beginning.  Just read the revanchist ogre “justice” Sam Alito’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision. It questions the rights to contraception, same sex love and marriage, and interracial marriage. It challenges any right not enumerated in the nation’s original 18th Century charter. It cites the 17th Century British jurist Matthew Hale, who ordered the execution of two women for witchcraft and wrote a treatise backing marital rape.

Today’s Republi-fascist anti-abortionists are not your grandmother’s right-to-lifers: they’re determined to roll block the clock on every human and social right they can get their filthy Christo-Hitlerian hands on.  These election-denying and vote cancelling cretins want to replace the bourgeois-democratic era with a new, explicitly authoritarian form of white nationalist rule advancing strict Social Darwinian and patriarchal hierarchy in the lawless name of law and order.

Look at the other decisions the absurdly far right Alito-Coney Barrett-Kavanaugh-Gorsuch-Thomas Court handed down last session. It rolled back arrestees’ Miranda rights. It rolled back gun safety in the wake of two egregious mass shootings. It crippled Indian Country’s right to prosecute non-Indigenous people on Native American lands. It limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power to regulate carbon emissions (even as fossil-capitalist global warming change was shown to be bringing us to the point of extinction faster than previously warned by climate scientists.) In its current term the Trump-Handmaid Court will take more power away from the EPA, further gut the already severely weakened Voting Rights Act, and likely rule (in Moore v. Harper) in favor of letting red (Republi-fascist) state legislatures nullify popular statewide presidential votes they don’t like in 2024-25.

Nothing to get all “hysterical” about, right?

The Dems’ Answer: “Roevember”

All of which and more raises Lenin’s famous question: what is to be done? The fascism-complicit/-enabling Democrats want us to believe that we can – what else? – vote ourselves out of this ugly mess.  The solution, they say, of course, is a great “Blue Wave” at the ballot box.  The wave, indeed “tsunami,” is coming, they say, in less than one month in the November mid-term elections. And the secret to this coming supposed great electoral uprising of the people is, they claim, the Dobbs ruling.

This is quite seriously their line: a great electoral “tsunami” reflecting a mass voter backlash against Dobbs will lead the Democrats to an historically rare mid-term elections victory for the party in White House power.  Hence their reference to the coming elections as — get this — “Roevember.”

“Roevember” is coming, the Democrats say, because a solid majority voted to keep the right to an abortion in the state constitution in a special referendum election held in the Republican state of Kansas last August.

After the “blue tsunami,” the Dems claim, their party will deliver the restoration of abortion rights through federal legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade’s onetime constitutional protection of women’s right to an abortion.

The counsel from the Dems is clear: we the peole can win back the right to abortion in future elections if we “just mobilize to vote harder.”

Marching Into Quicksand

The Numbers vs. the Electoral Cargo Cult

With all due respect for my fellow Substacker, the brilliant liberal-leftish filmmaker Michael Moore, this is magical electoralist thinking on par with the cargo cults of the post-WWII South Pacific. At worst, it is cynical and manipulative bullshit that amounts to telling people to march into political quicksand.

The mid-terms are not remotely shaping up as a Democratic triumph driven by voter backlash against the Dobbs ruling.) Joe Biden’s low approval numbers, the high percentage of voters who say the country is “on the wrong track,” and widespread popular concerns about inflation and the economy more broadly – there are classic indications of coming Democratic defeat only softened a bit by the Dobbs backlash

Always start with reality, head out of the sand. Here’s the real deal: abortion ranks below other concerns including inflation, crime, jobs, immigration, voting rights, and infrastructure at the top of voters’ minds on the eve of the elections. The Republi-fascists are likely to take back the US House of Representatives and have a fighting chance of winning back a Senate majority. Of the thirty-six state governor offices up for election this fall, fourteen are certain to be claimed by the Republi-fascist party and three (Georgia, Florida, and Alaska) are likely to go to the rightmost major party. Eleven governors’ race are sure Democratic wins and three or four (Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, and perhaps Kansas) are like to go blue. Four governors’ race (Oregon, Nevada, Nevada, and Wisconsin) are statistical toss-ups.

There is little basis for the Dems’ claim that abortion rights backlash will permit them to avoid the longstanding historical pattern of the party in White House power losing the mid-term elections.


“What We Really Need is a Green Wave”

So give up? Not at all!

Guess what: there’s political struggle and impact beneath and beyond the savagely time-staggered candidate-centered major party big money ruling class quadrennial and biennial electoral extravaganzas that are disastrously sold to us as “politics” — the only politics that supposedly matters! A shout-out to the Chicago chapter of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR), to the women of Latin America, and to thinking internationally, beyond the narrow horizons of the US American “Election Madness.” As RU4AR-Chi argues in a recent flyer handed out at the modestly attended Democratic Party-affiliated Women’s March rally in my home city’s downtown Federal Plaza:

“Pouring our energies into elections to restore abortion rights is a fool’s errand. The same Christian fascist movement that overturned Roe is stripping voting rights state by state through gerrymandering and voter suppression. It is pursuing outright election nullification, which the Court is poised to greenlight in its new term. And even before all this, ‘one person, one vote’ has long been rigged against Black and Brown people and in favor of the nation’s more reactionary, rural, and anti-abortion regions. Amidst this fascist assault on previously established electoral norms, relying on elections now to restore and expand abortion rights is like marching into quicksand… The call to rely on a ‘Blue Wave’ as the solution echoes the position of the Democratic Party and mainstream pro-choice ‘leaders’ who failed to call out the gross illegitimacy of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision and who advised us in advance to adjust to the new normal of the ‘post-Roe era.’ We must face the truth that voting by itself will not stop this assault.”

“…What we really need is a Green Wave!…Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights calls on you to take a page from our [social movement] sisters in Latin America, raise the Green Bandanna of abortion rights, and get into the streets again and again [beneath and beyond the biennial and quadrennial major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are sold to as ‘politics, the only politics that matters’]. Their struggle lasted years, their commitment was unstoppable, and their passion drove them on [to victory in the protection of abortion rights in Mexico, Columbia, and Argentina]. YOUR righteous fury must fuel the society-wide, nonviolent but relentless sustained protest and resistance that, drawing in more and more people, can compel those in power to responds to our demand: Legal Abortion on Demand & Without Apology Everywhere.”

Full disclosure: I just gave a shout out to myself in part. I am a volunteer with RU4AR and helped craft that statement – and those are my bracketed elaborations in the passage.

One addition: we now need to add the remarkable women’s uprising sparked in Iran by the state murder of Mahsa Amini to our list of international role models. Women and girls and their largely youthful supporters are currently heroically risking life and limb en masse to fight theocratic sexism-fascism in the streets and public squares of Iran. And that’s why the RU4AR Chicago chapter’s best allies at the Women’s March demonstration two days ago were roughly two hundred Iranian Americans who chanted “Women, Life, Freedom,” “Mahsa Amini Say Her Name,” and “One Solution, Revolution!”

Stand down from the cargo cult and get in the streets to shut shit down.

Step away from the electoral bong, Mr. Moore.

We need to go Iranian as well as Latin American against sexist Republi-fascism.

The System Was Already Rigged to the Right

What do my comrades and I mean by “even before all this, ‘one person, one vote has been rigged…in favor of the nation’s most reactionary, rural and anti-abortion regions”? Simply this: well before the latest right-wing assaults on voting rights, the US-American elections and party system was already a Minority Rule regime tilted far to the right of majority US public opinion. This is thanks to: the openly undemocratic Electoral College (which reduces US presidential elections to a small handful of contested states while significantly over-representing the country’s rightmost voters and states); the absurdly mal-apportioned and powerful US Senate (where low population rural, disproportionately white, and right wing states like Wyoming and Utah have the same number of representatives as high-population, diverse, urban and liberal states like California and New York); national majority-defying “states’ rights” (which grants remarkable policymaking power to politicians and voters far to the right of nationwide public policy opinion); the exaggerated power and influence of the absurdly right-wing and lifetime-appointed “Simon Says” Supreme Court, which has signed off on abject campaign finance plutocracy. (For more details on the deeply reactionary nature and consequences of the remarkably durable and absurdly venerated US constitutional set-up — a longstanding special subject matter in my writing — see thisthis, and this)

A Cynical Advance Surrender

What do we mean by “failed to call out the gross illegitimacy of the Dobbs decision”? Simply that:

·       The Dems and their allied establishment “pro-choice” organizations (chiefly NARAL and Planned Parenthood) surrendered in advance to the well-telegraphed Dobbs ruling refusing to mobilize masses in the streets to send the desperately needed message to the Court and indeed to the whole national political and social order: that reversing women’s hard-won half-century constitutional right to control their own reproductive lives would lead to mass societal disruption (no more “business as usual”) combined with and reflecting a crisis of legitimacy both for the Court and for the broader US social and political order.

·       The Dems cynically looked forward to the Dobbs decision as the “voter backlash” key to their supposed ability to defy the usual historical pattern of the party in White House power losing the mid-term elections – a remarkable statement of the Dems’ lack of a positive program for the people (!) and all too consistent with their reckless strategy of literally backing (supposedly “more beatable”) MAGA Republicans in this year’s intra-party primary elections.

·       The Dems have perversely played along with the Court’s reactionary and disingenuous command to “return abortion policy to the states” by digging in with fantastic notions that blue “abortion sanctuary states” states can save abortion access for millions of women and girls in the expanding number of prohibition states (they can’t). This complicity with “states’ rights” regression elides the crucial fact that the Republi-fascists are clearly gearing up for a national abortion ban.

More Reasons to Distrust the Dems on Abortion

There are more reasons to lack faith in the mythical “Blue Tsunami” as the fix for the war on abortion:

* The Dems had numerous opportunities to “codify Roe v. Wade as national law” over the last half-century and failed to act.

* Codifying Roe would require a frankly impossible two-thirds vote in the absurdly malapportioned, right-tilted US Senate under that body’s ridiculous reactionary filibuster rule.

* Even in this election year the (Democratic) Biden administration has refused to use the very real power at its disposal: to properly declare the accelerated war on abortion a national public health emergency; to open federal lands, military bases, and Veterans Administration hospitals to abortion providers; to pledge to prosecute those who would block the sending of abortion medications through the federal postal service. (This is a very underestimated point. Where is the mass pressure in the streets to make Biden act now? RU4AR demanded executive action from Biden outside the Supreme Court immediately after the Dobbs decision was announced. I was there.)

* The Democratic Party’s point man on abortion rights in the US Senate is the center-right Tim Kaine (D-MD), a milquetoast “moderate” with a long “right-to-life” history.

* Biden has deigned to seriously call for the (entirely constitutional) enlargement of the Supreme Court, who’s current 6-3 right-wing composition is wildly out of skew with majority public opinion on abortion rights and numerous other key issues.

* The Dems show no sign of moving to abolish the arch-reactionary US Senate filibuster rule, which blocks one piece of liberal legislation after another.

* The current Christian Fascist Court created by the Trump party’s installation of three far-right Handmaid “justices” (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney-Barrett) on top of the pre-existing far-right Supremes Thomas and Alito and the more moderate Republican Roberts) would likely shoot down any federal bill seeking to codify abortion as a national right.

The Gross Inflation of the Kansas Vote

Why question the Dems’ claim that the pro-abortion Kansas referendum (last August) shows that “voting harder” is the path to restoring abortion right? Because the mid-term elections are not single-issue policy referendums. They are candidate-centered partisan contests linked to a multiplicity of issues (with the state of the economy in the lead) insofar as they are about issues at all (millions of US voters have long been led to mark ballots on the basis of incredibly shallow considerations related to their perception of superficial candidate qualities). At the same time, Kansas voters (and non-voters) were understandably confused about the strangely worded referendum’s language and meaning. The vote drew heavily on libertarian anti-government sentiments against state control — something very different from a positive commitment to government-backed abortion rights. And the referendum vote was tied to a primary election, with much lower turnout than what takes place in general elections.

“Power Never Concedes Without a Demand”

There are broader historical reasons to reject reliance on the Dems and electoral politics. Frederick Douglass and Howard Zinn got it right. “Power,” Douglass said in 1857, “concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

(Here’s the RU4AR demand, issued literally outside the Supreme Court just seconds after the Dobbs ruling was handed down, as right-lifers exploded in joy and liberals wept: “This decision must not stand, legal abortion on demand across the land and without apology!” Calling for anything less or for this sometime in the future — somewhere over the rainbow — is surrender. it’s kind of pathetic, if you ask me.)

In United States history again and again, the rejection of submission and the setting of limits of tyranny have required refusal and transcendence of the magical doctrinal US-American belief that, in the radical historian Zinn’s critical words 14 years ago, “the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us.” This, Zin wrote, “is a multiple-choice test so narrow, so specious, that no self-respecting teacher would give it to students.”

Beyond the nation’s deeply flawed electoral process, Zinn rightly argued, “government, whether in the hands of conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war…Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

Anyone who’s waiting for a Blue Wave to carry us to freedom from forced birth fascism is pissing into the fierce winds of history. By all mean vote, but what we need on the abortion issue above all is a giant Latin American style Green Wave and the fierce determination being shown by women in Iran right now.  We cannot depend on politicians and elected officials. What we need is a great social movement beneath and beyond the holy killing confines of the US election cycle, beyond the demobilizing religion of the ballot boss. We need a movement that doesn’t just hope for but demands legal abortion across the land. And we need a movement that understands how the right for abortion rights is both important in and of itself and part of refusing to accept the rise of a fascist America.

This article first appeared on Substack

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).