Please, media, stop pitting abortion against inflation — Republicans suck on both issues

Republicans have no ideas on how to fix the economy — and what they are planning will only make things worse

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published October 21, 2022 6:00AM (EDT)

Planned Parenthood signage (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Planned Parenthood signage (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Cable news in the weeks before an election is the ninth circle of hell. For proof, look no further than the way MSNBC subjected Georgia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to an interview by 79-year-old white guy plagiarist and organized crime apologist Mike Barnicle. Abrams, whose only crime is being a "Star Trek" nerd who wants Georgia to suck less, was subjected to this crotchety fraud demanding she stop talking about abortion rights so much, arguing that what voters supposedly care about is "the cost of gas, food, bread, milk, things like that." Because, as all old men who have never changed a diaper know, having and raising babies is totally free, unlike a gallon of gasoline. 

Abrams handled the question as well as she could, pointing out that you "can't divorce being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy from the economic realities of having a child." She went on to outline her plans to help Georgians with rising housing prices and other economic problems. But as much as it's fun to kick around Barnicle for being out of touch, the sad truth is the false premise of his question is endemic throughout the mainstream media coverage of the 2022 midterm elections. Everywhere you turn, pundits and reporters are treating this election as if it's a choice between fighting inflation and protecting abortion rights.

This is, and it cannot be stressed enough, total hooey. When it comes to the ballot box, there is absolutely no trade-off between reproductive rights and the economy. Either way, voting Republican is bad: Bad for the economy, bad for abortion rights. Pretending otherwise is misleading to the point of outright dishonesty. 

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To say Republicans have no plan to fight inflation if they retake Congress is really an understatement. They have nothing concrete to offer about the issue beyond using it as a stick to beat Democrats with. The second polls close on Election Day, all GOP interest in relieving Americans' economic woes will dry up. 

Bothsiderism is cowardice that does a disservice to voters in any election cycle.

We know this because Republicans aren't even being subtle about their future plans, which most definitely do not involve giving a fig about inflation. As Heather "Digby" Parton wrote for Salon on Wednesday, Republicans are largely plotting to gin up fake scandals to demonize President Joe Biden. And that's the best-case scenario.

In truth, there are a lot of indications that Republicans will use congressional majorities to tank the economy in whatever way they can. They're threatening pointless government shutdowns, which invariably wreak economic havoc across the country. Worse, they're even scheming to tank the global economy by reneging on America's debt unless Biden gives in and drastically cuts spending on Medicare and Social Security. If seniors think that living on a fixed income is hard now, wait until their Social Security checks and medical coverage take a massive hit. 

Contrast that with Democrats, who are trying to do something about inflation, even if the problem is a difficult one to solve. 

The reason Republicans are eager to sabotage the economy is simple: There's only upside to this level of destruction, as far as they're concerned. For one thing, they will simply blame Biden for the wreckage, with the understanding that swing voters tend to be low-info voters, and will therefore believe the lie. This is exactly the strategy they ran on President Barack Obama in his first term, artificially drawing out the recession in order to drag down his approval ratings. 

Second, Republicans believe — with good reason — that economic distress and general social chaos redounds to their benefit. It causes well-meaning people to grow disillusioned with politics and to give up on voting entirely. That only leaves people who vote purely on spite, a group that is overwhelmingly Republican. 

If you read mainstream media coverage or watch cable news, you learn none of this. Instead, the coverage repeatedly implies, falsely, that voting for reproductive rights means voting against a better economy. To be clear, most reporters and pundits avoid coming right out and saying that Republicans are better for the economy, a lie that would get them raked over the coals. But constantly pitting abortion rights against inflation as voting issues falsely implies voters must choose between the two, even though, in reality, Republicans are worse on both issues. 

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The justification for this misleading coverage is that they're simply reporting what voters "believe." For instance, a recent New York Times poll finds that "voters most concerned with the economy favored Republicans overwhelmingly." But this is circular logic. The reason voters hold the false belief that Republicans are better on the economy is that the media keeps telling them that. For instance, the headline of the New York Times article reads, "Republicans Gain Edge as Voters Worry About Economy." The sub-headline reads, "independents, especially women, are swinging to the G.O.P. despite Democrats' focus on abortion rights." It's reasonable for an average person to see such headlines and draw the false conclusion that one can only be chosen at the expense of the other. 

The real reason the mainstream media is offering this false binary is the same reason they always do: Because the pressure to be "balanced" outweighs the desire to tell the truth. A framework that implies one party is better on the economy while the other is better on abortion rights satisfies that urge for balance. Pesky questions about being honest with readers can be set aside by hiding behind claims that they're just reporting what voters "believe," without asking how they came to hold this false belief. 

Bothsiderism is cowardice that does a disservice to voters in any election cycle. It's especially despicable this year when Republicans are running a bunch of election deniers who are unsubtly promising to steal the 2024 election for Donald Trump. Republicans aren't even hiding that they intend to hold the global economy hostage unless Biden agrees to decimate Social Security and Medicare. Those are the stakes voters need to be aware of in order to make an informed choice. Instead, they're being misled into thinking they can either have abortion rights or a stronger economy. In truth, if Republicans win, Americans will lose both. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Abortion Commentary Elections Inflation Politics Stacey Abrams