There are so many hot takes about the soon-to-be but-now-leaked Supreme Court decision overturning Roe that it’s become imperative to tune them all out. Great writers, good writers and crappy writers all have an opinion and I cannot wade through them all.
But this one in New York Magazine caught my eye because it rings so true, despite having been written by an author with whom I’ve had many problems. Jonathan Chait was an acolyte of Andrew Sullivan, which automatically makes him suspect. But he seems pretty on-target with this piece, titled “An End to the Liberal Romance With Courts: The right to abortion will not be delivered from a marble building.”
The piece begins:
The forthcoming demise of Roe v. Wade should dispel an illusion. Americans — liberals in particular, and boomers especially — have been suffering from a misplaced faith in the Supreme Court as the guarantor of rights and liberties. The right to abortion will not be secured by the occupants of a gleaming marble building. It will be the work of politics — activism, persuasion, and voting — that will control its fate.
For most of its history, the Supreme Court was a nakedly reactionary institution. The Court destroyed civil-rights laws in the 19th century and progressive economic legislation in the 20th, right up until midway through the New Deal. The Constitution, as interpreted by the Court, created rights for social and economic elites that Congress could not touch.
In the second half of the 20th century, the Court reversed its historic character and began handing down liberal rulings. Roe v. Wade was the apogee of the Warren and Burger Courts, and the era imprinted the image of a liberal Court on the public mind.
Even as control of the Court has passed into the hands of conservatives, who have turned it back into its historic role of creating conservative rights — to pollute, to carry weapons almost anywhere, to thwart a Medicaid expansion — rather than liberal ones, the old impression has endured. Last fall, a Gallup poll found Democrats and Republicans approved of the Court equally, while a Marquette University poll found it had slightly higher approval among Democrats — an extraordinary assessment of a body controlled by six conservatives, half of whom were chosen by Donald Trump.
This pretty much tracks with where I am going to end up:
- Angry that we are where we are politically in (not inconsiderable) part because of progressive electoral laziness and liberal lack of foresight and imagination.
- Thankful that progressives now will be forced to work as hard as conservatives — conservatives who have worked to pack their people onto city councils and in mayors’ offices, state legislatures, school boards, governorships and all the rest of the local offices that the Right has been gunning for since before today’s college Republicans were conceived.
It’s going to a long, hard slog. But we may as well start now because now we (literally and figuratively) have no choice.
They — “they” being the array of right-wing forces emboldened by the repeal of Roe — are coming for the right to privacy and all the court decisions which were built on that.