There’s no evidence yet that Roe’s imminent demise will flip many votes this fall. But if you’re looking for anecdotes, have I got the clip for you.
I don’t blame you if you read the headline above and thought, “Who cares?” But conservatives have sometimes cared about Portnoy’s opinion, especially when he was ranting against lockdowns and raising money for shuttered businesses during the peak of COVID. He was also ahead of the game on Trumpism, writing two months after Trump entered the race in 2015 on his site, Barstool Sports, that he was all-in on MAGA. His reasoning seems almost prophetic in hindsight:
There I said it. I am voting for Donald Trump. I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it. I hope he stays in the race and I hope he wins. Why? Because I love the fact that he is making other politicians squirm. I love the fact he says sh*t nobody else will say regardless of how ridiculous it is. I love the fact he went all in on Megyn Kelly today. And let’s be honest. My day to day life isn’t gonnna change that much no matter who gets elected. Our government is so f***ed up nothing can get done no matter who is President. All we get every 4 years is hypocritical, fake ass politicians pointing their fingers at each other and blaming everything on everybody else. Every 4 years politicians will say “Are you sick of business as usual” and then nothing changes and they do it all over again in the next election. Well at least Trump is entertaining and says funny sh*t. He’s like a 1 man real life political mockumentary and that’s the best you can hope for at this point. Trump 2016 4 real.
The essence of MAGA in one paragraph. Well, early MAGA. Modern MAGA is pretty much just authoritarianism.
Portnoy’s irreverence and campaign against COVID restrictions were so in sync with the Trump-era GOP that political newspapers began musing about “How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party.” Portnoy himself interviewed Trump at the White House in the summer of 2020. Last year Matthew Walther coined the term “Barstool conservatives” to describe the sort of young populist who may disagree with the right’s positions on “values” but who despises the left’s sanctimony about its own pieties.
What Trump recognized was that there are millions of Americans who do not oppose or even care about abortion or same-sex marriage, much less stem-cell research or any of the other causes that had animated traditional social conservatives. Instead he correctly intuited that the new culture war would be fought over very different (and more nebulous) issues: vague concerns about political correctness and “SJWs,” opposition to the popularization of so-called critical race theory, sentimentality about the American flag and the military, the rights of male undergraduates to engage in fornication while intoxicated without fear of the Title IX mafia. Whatever their opinions might have been 20 years ago, in 2021 these are people who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, accept pornography, homosexuality, drug use, legalized gambling, and whatever GamerGate was about. On economic questions their views are a curious and at times incoherent mixture of standard libertarian talking points and pseudo-populism, embracing lower taxes on the one hand and stimulus checks and stricter regulation of social media platforms on the other.
The one flaw in that description is that Portnoy does care abortion, it turns out. Quite a lot.
Enough maybe to finally flip him out of Trump’s column after seven years. Watch (language warning):
The reader will judge for himself whether that’s a principled pro-choice argument or the plaintive cry of a bro who fears the sexual marketplace drying up in an America where abortion is banned. Not that the two are mutually exclusive.
If it is a principled argument then I’m surprised to hear him mischaracterize his opponents’ position. Pro-lifers support regulating abortion for the same reason they support all manner of criminal statutes even though those laws also empower “big government.” The state properly exercises its authority — within limits — when it seeks to protect the innocent from harm. Fundamentally, it’s not the federal/state distinction that makes righties comfortable with regulation of abortion. (Although any federalist worth his salt does prefer that state governments do the regulating.) It’s the belief that children in the womb are innocents who merit protection from some form of government.
Case in point: In the abstract, most would regard it as unconscionable for a state to remove a child from its parents’ custody, a case of “big government” run completely amok. But show them that that child is unsafe in its parents’ home due to rampant drug use or whatever and opinion will shift. The state doesn’t just have the power to remove the child in that case, I think most would say, but a duty to do so. “Big government” has its place. I’m surprised a Barstool conservative, of all people, wouldn’t see that.
Oh, and if Portnoy truly believes righties will encourage the states to ban abortion while remaining squeamish about letting the federal government do so, I have bad news for him.
Exit question: Will the end of Roe also steer the Bro Pope, Joe Rogan, back towards the left after his journey towards the right over the past few years? Evidently Rogan has called himself pro-choice in the past.