The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said many wise and memorable things, including this: “The central Conservative truth is that culture, not politics, determines a society’s success. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.
His observation is particularly relevant at this difficult American time. With the country deeply polarized and political violence on the rise, the two explosive rulings handed down by the Supreme Court last week are shifting the battlefield between culture and politics.
For generations, Republicans have been reduced to playing defense in the culture wars as one social revolution after another swept away traditional safeguards. But that losing streak came to an abrupt end when six conservative justices expanded gun rights and ended the constitutional right to abortion.
By overturning New York’s overly onerous restrictions on concealed carry permits and overturning Roe v. Wade, the judges showed the nation what a strict interpretation of the Constitution looks like.
(My personal view is that while I favor abortion rights with restrictions, I agree with those who argue that Roe created a constitutional right and quarterly scheme that had no legal basis. or historical.)
Outrage on the left
Most Democrats, of course, are furious with both cases, but much of their backlash has inadvertently proven the court’s rulings right. The widespread promise to pass legislation codifying the right to abortion, for example, underscores the central point the justices were making – that because the Constitution is silent on abortion, the matter is rightly left to the voters and legislators in every state.
The impassioned reaction also reflects how the left viewed the Supremes as a super-legislature, counting on them to win unique victories they could not win in Congress. Thanks to the Conservative majority led by Clarence Thomas, those days are over, at least for now.
That said, the abortion ruling could be a political life raft for Democrats in the fall. In fact, it might be the best thing to happen to them since Donald Trump.
For months, it’s been an article of faith that a failed Joe Biden presidency would lead to a red wave and the GOP would take the House and possibly the Senate.
The poll that identified inflation and economic pessimism as voters’ top concerns banished Biden to the niche. His approval is stuck in the 1930s, a dismal place that has members of his party saying he shouldn’t seek re-election in 24.
Even in deep blue New York, a poll put his approval at 35%, making him toxic to many Democratic candidates seeking re-election. Other issues, such as the domestic crime wave, the opening of the southern border, and the sense that America is shrinking internationally, all contributed to the consensus that the administration had gone too far left. and the midterms would mark a GOP resurgence.
The only card Dems had to play was Trump, whose name unites his opponents. The catch is that he is not in office or on the ballot.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to solve this problem. The House inquiry into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has been proceeding quietly for many months, but by bringing it to prime time, it aims to stir up excitement among disillusioned voters.
The evidence she produced made Trump even worse, but that alone probably wouldn’t be enough to counter most voters’ worries about inflation, crime and the prospect of a declining quality of life.
Pivot to politics
The court defeat on abortion, however, could do the trick, especially in some suburban neighborhoods that could keep the Dems in power. Pelosi pondered that possibility when she called the Roe decision “outrageous and heartbreaking,” but immediately turned to politics, adding, “But make no mistake: the rights of women and all Americans are on the ballot in November”.
Even a confused Senator Elizabeth Warren came to the same conclusion. After declaring herself “spit crazy” and calling the justices who voted to overthrow Roe “six extremists”, she said: “In a democracy, on this issue, the Supreme Court does not have the final say, it is the people who have it. And we will fight. »
Money is key, and right on cue, my inbox was filled with fundraising arguments from the left based on Roe’s verdict. In 24 hours, Bill Clinton’s sidekick James Carville single-handedly sent out six solicitations on behalf of Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democratic senator from Nevada whose seat is considered vulnerable.
Whether or not Carville actually writes them, the emails capture his goofy schtick, if dated. Four named after him began with the identical words “I’m so mad I can barely type this message to you”, while another began with “I’m so MAD”.
Two days earlier, before the Roe decision, he was already “crazier than a box of frogs”.
The fear that Democratic anger will turn into violence is valid, and the Friday night protests that turned sour in cities across the country could be a taste of that. Recall that the violence of 2020 after the police killing of George Floyd triggered the record wave of crime that continues in many cities.
Biden, who has remained silent through most of 2020’s riots and arson attacks and done next to nothing about rising murder rates, finally got his way on Friday when, after denouncing the Roe decision, he demanded that protests are “peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. ”
It was a welcome break from his outrageous silence after Judge Brett Kavanaugh was targeted by a would-be killer who turned himself in after bringing a gun to Kavanaugh’s house.
The DOJ’s double standard
A related worry is that the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland is playing by a double standard. Her obsession with “white supremacists” has led her to view parents who complain at school board meetings as potential domestic terrorists.
His morning raid on Jeffrey Clark’s home last week also smacks of dirty politics. The raid came just as Clark, a former assistant attorney general under Trump, became a household name as the Jan. 6 panel considered his willingness to help Trump try to overturn the election.
It happened 18 months ago, but the raid coincided perfectly with Pelosi’s attempt to anger voters. The chances of the timing of the raid being a coincidence are zero.
Then on Friday, Garland went partisan again in an extraordinary statement decrying the Roe decision.
His use of the Justice Department to play politics recalls Benjamin Franklin’s ominous warning 235 years ago. Emerging from Independence Hall in Philadelphia in September 1787 at the close of the Constitutional Convention, the story goes that a woman asked Franklin whether the nation would be a republic or a monarchy.
He is said to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Franklin’s warning is tested again. Can the great republic be saved again, or are the forces that separate us this time too strong for the center to hold?