Following up the last post, which explains why Republicans really don’t want Roe v. Wade overturned — Michael Kinsley writes in Slate that most of the talk about precedent on Capitol Hill these days is, of course, all about Roe v. Wade. “[B]y the absurd unwritten rules of these increasingly stylized episodes, they are not allowed to ask him and he is not allowed to answer. So the nominee does a fan dance, tantalizing the audience by revealing little bits of his thinking but denying us a complete view.”
While Roe defenders play this double game, ostensible Roe opponents, especially those in the White House, may be playing a triple game. Their public position is A) Roe is a terrible decision, responsible for a vast slaughter of innocents; B) legal abortion is deeply immoral; C) we ignore all this in choosing Supreme Court justices, and you (Roe defenders) should, too. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not believable. The natural assumption is that Bush is trying to con abortion-rights supporters. Only an idiot would squander the opportunity to rid the nation of Roe because of some fatuous nonsense about picking judges without finding out the one thing you most urgently want to know.
But Machiavellians of my acquaintance believe that it is the anti-abortion folks who are getting conned. The last thing in the world that Republican strategists want is the repeal of Roe. If abortion becomes a legislative issue again, all those pro-choice women and men who have been voting Republican because abortion was safe would have to reconsider, and many would bolt. Meanwhile, the reversal of Roe would energize the left the way Roe itself energized the right. Who needs that?
As I wrote in the last post, for years right-wing politicians have been taking shelter in Roe even as they denounce it. A repeal of Roe would end their little game of making promises to the Fetus People while winking at moderate voters that, of course, we can’t really outlaw abortion.
One tangible example of this are the repeated attempts to ban so-called “partial birth” abortions. Both federal and state legislators continuously crank out laws crafted to both please the Fetus People and displease the courts. And when the laws are bounced–and I think they are written in a way that will ensure they are bounced–the legislators can claim righteous intentions and scapegoat the courts.
But now that the Republicans are in a position to install an anti-Roe majority on the Supreme Court, the rules of the game are about to change. Conservative politicians will, literally, have to put up or shut up.
It’s for this reason that some lefties think we’d be better off without Roe. I’m not among them. I think if Roe were overturned, statehouses across the land would immediately be thrown into chaos–pretty much where they were before Roe, but worse. Abortions would be unavailable in the South and big chunks of the Midwest, forcing women of means to travel and women without means to perforate themselves with coathangers. Yes, the backlash would be huge, and in time it would drive the almighty “Right to Life” movement the way of the Anti-Saloon League. But it would take years to straighten out the mess, and much suffering would result.
Will Republicans, realizing this, pull back from the brink? Even if they would like to, I’m not sure they can. George W. Bush is the one making nominations, and he doesn’t care about consequences. He just cares about power. Further, the Harriet Miers messs proved that the hard right owns him, and he’s not going to risk “disappointing” them again as long as he’s in office. And even if pigs can fly and either Alito or Roberts were not really anti-Roe, there’s a good chance Bush could get another SCOTUS pick before he vacates the White House.
What about Karl Rove, who has been trying to build a permanent Republican majority? Although Rove is supposed to be some kind of all-seeing evil genius, I wonder sometimes if he isn’t more of an idiot savant. He’s brilliant at doing one thing–building political power through sheer nastiness. He may not be wise enough to see the seeds of destruction he has planted.
If Roe survives the next few years, it’ll be a miracle. But sometimes, as with Prohibition, Americans have to learn the hard way.