If I were a political pro working for the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate, I would recommend they find a way to avoid filling the Supreme Court vacancy before January 20th, well aware of the growing likelihood that Biden will be sworn in on that date. I would urge them to resort to whatever deft dodge they could devise to pass up the golden opportunity to scuttle Rowe v Wade, among other key rulings. And I would explain why, since they seem to need to hear it.
Republican political strategy has never sought the reversal of Rowe v Wade and the re-criminalization of abortion after half a century. What it has sought—and carried out in elections big and small—is the continual flogging of the abortion issue as the go-to means of deluding millions of Americans into swallowing a political agenda that is pure poison to them. The GOP is about one thing and one thing only: keeping American society firmly under the thumb of the moneyed class and gradually, inexorably shifting even more of the nation’s wealth to the economy’s lords and ladies at the top of the pyramid. That was true in the 1920s and it remains true in the 2020s. Over the last four decades, the party’s objective hasn’t just been fulfilled. It has been spectacularly overfulfilled, in the process hollowing out the American middle class and vilifying progressive government (“government of the people, by the people, and for the people”).
Now, however, the whole shell game is in serious jeopardy. The promise of overturning Rowe v Wade, elusive for so long, is within easy reach. The ever receding mirage is a mirage no more. It is real. As real as a 16-year-old girl’s perforated uterus and septic shock when she attempts to induce her own abortion with a bent piece of wire. As real as a 24-year-old woman’s renal failure and respiratory arrest after she squirts a soap solution into herself to end her unwanted pregnancy. The reversal of Rowe v Wade will lay bare the cruel absurdity of returning abortion procedures to the shadows, the unregulated chop shops of female bodies, and of giving the lock and key to women’s wombs back to politicians, only a tiny fraction of whom have any training in the medical science of human conception and reproduction, but all too many of whom consider themselves endowed with an unerring knowledge of right and wrong, courtesy of men in priest’s collars or evangelical robes wagging their fingers in pulpits. On the abortion issue alone, the electoral consequences for Republicans will come swiftly and terribly, without even taking into consideration other critical matters awaiting the high court, such as the future of the Affordable Care Act with its protections for those with pre-existing conditions. The whole thing will be a catastrophe for the GOP.
No one is pro-abortion. Abortion is something we all wish we could eliminate, just as we all want to eliminate chemotherapy by doing everything possible to make the condition it exists to address—cancer—a thing of the past. And we can do a great deal to end abortion by going after the condition it exists to address—unwanted pregnancies. WE CAN. We can do it through sustained, vigorous, well-funded public health practices, education, and sound science.
But not through criminalization. No more than we can rid the world of cancer by outlawing it.
But that’s beside the point. Because the Republican Party isn’t interested in measures that would actually work. What it wants is to keep riding the political wave that Rowe v Wade created. And garner the votes of all those poor, struggling saps whose hands President Trump, in an unguarded moment, admitted he hates the thought of shaking.
The strange thing is, in the MAGA era, Republican leaders have started believing their own cover story. So they’re going ahead with a reactionary Supreme Court nominee, rushing headlong into a disaster, a stark demonstration of the emptiness of their promises for all to see. They remind me of George Costanza insisting on driving his fiancee’s parents to his dream house in the Hamptons, a trip that he knows will end in his humiliation because the house doesn’t exist. The new motto of the Republican Party? “Let’s get nuts!”
George Angell, September 2020