Texas Democrat Wendy Davis has split her party in two. In a whirlwind campaign that most recently saw the candidate claim she was open to an abortion ban, the left is struggling to keep up with Davis’s evolving definition of herself. The Daily Beast’s Keli Goff defends Davis, arguing that she, “America’s conscience,” is taking a beating for “simply telling the truth.”
Goff makes two critical points in her quest to defend Davis as a consistent thinker on the issue of abortion: Davis did not contradict herself by recently becoming open to an abortion ban she filibustered because she still opposed that particular bill and that her position is justified because polls show that many Americans feel similarly. This, Goff argues, makes Davis a living testament to the will of the American people on abortion, which is to be “not fully ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’ but if given a say in the matter would probably describe themselves as ‘pro-it’s-complicated.'”
Goff begins her argument suggesting that Davis’s stance is so convoluted it managed to get Gawker and Fox News on the same side of an issue. Gawker, indeed, was one of the few left-leaning outlets to attack Davis for telling the Dallas Morning News that she could support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. (A ban on abortions after 20 weeks, of course, is the content of the bill Davis filibustered last summer that made her gubernatorial candidate material to Democrats.) Goff entirely dismisses the idea that Davis’s position is contradictory, even dismissing fellow progressive criticism of Davis. “If Wendy Davis is guilty of any political sin at all it may be committing a small gaffe. And you know what they say in politics: A gaffe is when you accidentally tell the truth,” she writes.
What that truth is, exactly, is not particularly clear. If it is that “Davis did say that she was open to supporting a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, one of the measures included in the bill she famously filibustered,” and that this is consistent with statements Davis has made in the past, Goff is wrong. Goff is wrong here to argue consistency not even because of the content of any statement Davis made preceding the Morning News quote. The day after that interview, Davis went on to “clarify” yet again to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the hypothetical bill she would support banning these abortions was impossible to write and could never exist because she does not believe the state “can appropriately articulate the exceptions in the way that will really be able to capture the decisions and the challenges women face who make a decision post-20 weeks.”
Goff finds any claim that there was spin to what Davis was saying “silly,” in large part also because a series of polls show contradictory views nationwide on abortion. One example she notes is the phenomenon of a significant percentage of self-identified pro-life Americans who also want Roe v. Wade to remain the law of the land. It is true that Americans as a whole have conflicting views on abortion because of the nature of the topic. How this excuses an individual, one who banked her entire political career on having a very clear stance on abortion, from having similar views is another question entirely.
Where Davis is “simply telling the truth” on any of this is also a question Goff fails to answer. For one, Davis has only expressed opinions about what she thinks the law should be; she has not even said anything that could be verifiable fact. If Goff means that Davis was merely being honest, she gets more leeway in her assessment. But even then, Davis’s “honesty” is to say that she could hypothetically support a bill that could never exist. How is such a statement useful in the least, and how does that make her “America’s conscience”? These questions are many of the loopholes supporters face in defending the increasingly incoherent campaign of Wendy Davis–one laden with pitfalls for modern liberals, starting with her new pro-gun stance.
Whether Davis will be able to continue her campaign in such a way without losing the complete support of her liberal allies remains to be seen, but she treads on dangerous ground when she plays this fast and loose with issues that impact the left’s funding and promotion of her campaign. Clearly, they are running out of ideas to help her.