Overview:

Red America’s political efforts make it clear that their long term goal is to force Americans to live under conservative morality and value systems.

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When a Texas woman was charged with murder after having an abortion, it seemed like foreshadowing for moments to come. Even though the charges were eventually dropped, the point had been made: this is a possible future for women in red states who try to exercise their reproductive rights.

Now, with a draft opinion from the Supreme Court indicating that the conservative majority intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, that potential future is set to become a reality, as soon as this summer. As many as 26 states could ban or heavily restrict abortion without Roe. Almost all of those are in Red America, but the conservative majority’s intention to overturn Roe is devastating for women across the country. It is also part of a broader Republican political agenda to force a conservative morality on individuals, groups, and corporations who may not agree. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ political war on Disney is an example of Republican-dominated states fully embracing the culture war. After Disney came out in opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Florida Republicans immediately moved to retaliate. DeSantis called for the removal of the corporation’s special district status in Central Florida. The Florida legislature quickly agreed. Orange and Osceola County residents may face steep tax increases as a result, but Florida Republicans are willing to push costs onto voters if it means winning the cultural battle. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ political war on Disney is an example of Republican states fully embracing the culture war.

In Texas, state legislators have threatened corporations who provide funds for their employees to receive abortions out of state. “These are criminal organizations,” said Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain. It is a crime to pay for another person’s abortion in Texas, and anyone who gives money to these abortion funds will be prosecuted.”

Texas has also threatened to prevent investment firms that divest from fossil fuels. Under a new state law, such firms would no longer be able to do business with the state of Texas. Previously, Texas passed a similar law that forbids banks from excluding the firearms industry from receiving financing.  

Republicans have even taken this battle to schools across the country, passing a wide range of laws banning critical race theory and discussions of sex and gender. The state of Florida eliminated tenure for college professors, and other Republican-led states have also become increasingly hostile to higher education. 

All of this is on top of the prominent voting restrictions passed throughout Red America over the past decade. Journalists and scholars have claimed that these restrictions are intended to reduce the political influence of racial and ethnic minorities. “You’re seeing a national effort by the Republican Party to try to restrict voting rights, and it’s playing out in states all across the country,” said Ari Berman, a journalist with Mother Jones.

Red America’s political efforts make it clear that their long-term goal is to force Americans to live under conservative morality and value systems. In Red America, it is likely that the rights of women and marginalized groups will continue to shrink. In Blue America, state legislatures are expanding voting access and looking to become safe havens for abortion and reproductive care. Blue America accounts for nearly 70% of the nation’s gross domestic product, and is increasingly the home of more educated Americans

In the next phase of the conservative culture war, these gaps could increase significantly. Attacks on education and corporations are likely to hurt Red America in its ability to compete for talent. But Red America will probably solidify its hold on cultural power. Living in a state like Oklahoma will increasingly feel like living in a different country than a state like California. For women living in Republican states without the means to move, this is a dramatic and historic reduction in fundamental rights. 

Marcus Johnson

Marcus Johnson is a political commentator and a political science Ph.D. candidate at American University. His primary research focus is the impact of political institutions on the racial wealth gap.