IMMEDIATE RELEASE 6 May 2022
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Midterm prospects just upended
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON — What was conventional wisdom just vanished in the stroke of a pen. The surprise that was not a surprise just happened and the earth moved. Democrats were almost resigned to a dismal midterm election when a leaked memo from the Supreme Court of all places announced to the 80 percent of people who are pro-choice that their choice will no longer exist. And this is good news for them.
Americans have historically required a jolt before acting. After all, it took the attack on Pearl Harbor to awaken the public to the obvious realization that the war that had been raging for two years was not a regional war. It was World War II, and America was almost disastrously late. America Firsters were dead wrong.
Once again, America has been asleep at the polling booths. So many of that pro-choice majority ignored another obvious reality, naïvely certain that the presidential politicians they supported would never appoint and the senatorial politicians they supported would never confirm justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn the abortion rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in 1973 and validated by Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
Further, these same voters refused to believe that conservative justices would ignore the doctrine of stare decisis (to stand by things decided). After all, they had seen Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, Reagan appointees, and David Souter, a George H.W. Bush appointee, craft the language that let Roe stand in the Casey decision. They ignored the longtime hardline Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito as outliers, but along came Donald Trump, a pro-choice advocate until political expediency intervened and he nominated Neil Gorsuch, Bret Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, outliers to outlier the outliers. Two of them, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, lied under oath in their confirmation hearings and to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, directly that Roe and Casey were “settled law” – stare decisis.
Now, these five out-of-step outlier justices have handed mostly Democratic pro-choice voters a November gift. Prospects for the midterm election just altered the political landscape, and the inconceivable has become conceivable: Democrats may pick up at least three Senate seats with victories in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina while holding on to heretofore vulnerable seats in Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. Further, Democrats will see their House of Representatives majority increase by a dozen or more seats despite the redistricting gerrymandering shenanigans practiced most extensively – though not exclusively – by Republican legislatures.
To win the politics of this issue, all Democrats need do is not come across as radicals while leaving pro-life Republicans to look like out-of-touch zealots.
See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
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END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
IMMEDIATE RELEASE 6 May 2022