Two thoughts: First, the Republican dog has finally caught the car it’s been chasing for years. A band of right-wing zealots in judge’s robes has given them the power to fulfill their reactionary daydreams. Hence, their political self-destruction looks assured. It’s just a question of time. They won’t be able to help themselves.
Second, things are going to get worse, possibly much worse, before they get better. How shocking would it be, for example, to learn that a deranged young man murdered 20 citizens standing in line to vote with his trusty AR-15?
It would hardly even be surprising.
Nor to hear police explain, as journalist Kevin Drum puts it, “that they knew there was a guy with an AR-15 hanging around outside the mall/school/courthouse, but they were constrained from so much as approaching him. Hanging around a mall with an assault rifle is perfectly legal, after all.”
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Because the Supreme Court says so. Never mind that the phrase “well-regulated” appears in the actual text of the Second Amendment. As I’ve pointed out in other contexts, nothing so excites the fundamentalist mind as contradicting scripture. The Founding Fathers clearly intended frequent mass shooting events. Wasn’t it Jefferson who wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”?
Also, schoolchildren and parade-goers, apparently.
Anyway, here’s where triumphalist Republicans are coming from, as reported by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. Witness a tweet from Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi: “Today we wake up in a state where the church doors are open and the abortion clinic’s doors are closed. All the Glory to God the Father! Amen!”
Politicians like Reeves are the reason we have a long-standing proverb over here in Arkansas: “Thank God for Mississippi.” Because whatever embarrassing statistics make us look like the 49th worst state in the union — poverty, illiteracy, child mortality, etc. — Mississippi will normally be marginally worse.
During the 50 years I’ve lived here, far-right Bible-beaters have always made most of the noise during Arkansas political campaigns — and lost most of the elections. (Remember, Arkansas elected Bill Clinton governor five times; Democrat Mike Beebe was elected as recently as 2010.) People act as if “red states” are a fixed and permanent thing. Not so.
But I digress. My point is that most Americans have no ambition to live in a country where the religious right holds the high cards. In my view, the GOP has already overplayed its hand.
I thought President Joe Biden got it right last week when, after some crawfishing around, he denounced the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision as “an exercise in raw political power.” He criticized Justice Samuel Alito’s written opinion “for playing fast and loose with the facts,” adding that “even 150 years ago, the common law ... did not criminalize abortion early in pregnancy.”
Quite right. Biden added that the Dobbs decision “practically dares the women of America to go to the ballot box and restore the very rights they’ve just taken away.”
Ah, but will they? Rubin cites a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute that makes it seem likely. Altogether, 65% of Americans think abortion should be legal almost all the time. Granted, the Republican base of white, evangelical Protestants disagrees.
“By contrast,” the poll reports, “64% of white Catholics, 69% of white mainline (non-evangelical) Protestants, 75% of Black Protestants, 75% of Hispanic Catholics, 82% of non-Christian religious Americans, and 84% of religiously unaffiliated Americans support abortion legality in most or all cases.”
Several historians have cited the nation’s experience of Prohibition during the 1920s as an example of what can happen when moralistic zealots try to regulate people’s private behavior. Eventually, the public will rebel. To enforce the kind of national abortion ban the keener Republican moralists are proposing, writes Michael Kazin, a Georgetown University historian, “would require a very different citizenry from the one that inhabits 21st-century America.”
It wouldn’t take a whole lot of stories about “teenagers forced to bear children that resulted from rape and ... health workers jailed for helping desperate poor women end their pregnancies,” Kazin thinks, to “make the anti-abortion movement seem more sadistic than virtuous.”
True enough. But corruption-riddled and widely ignored as it was, legal prohibition lasted more than a decade, from 1920 to 1933. Some of us wonder if we have that long before the authoritarians have taken control.
Republicans wielding the Senate filibuster pretty much make it impossible, short term, to pass meaningful legislation restoring women’s reproductive autonomy. So Democrats plan to make Republican lawmakers vote on smaller bills, such as one preventing states from enforcing brazenly un-American laws that forbid women from traveling out-of-state to end unwanted pregnancies. Put GOP legislators on the record and make them defend their votes come November.
Will it work? Short term, doubtful.
Longer term? Well, it had better.
Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”
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