It’s safe to say that most left-of-center Americans who follow political news are pretty freaked out by the leaked draft opinion from Justice Samuel Alito that suggests the Supreme Court is on the brink of totally abolishing any federal Constitutional right to an abortion. That extends even to people, like me, who (a) have been anticipating this dire development for many years and (b) are not 100 percent convinced the draft represents the final decision of the Court. Democratic elected officials from Joe Biden on down are certainly concerned.
But the reaction of conservative opinion leaders and of most Republican politicians — nearly all of whom have, in theory, been anticipating this day like a child looks forward to Christmas morning — has been weirdly evasive. The overwhelming and apparently coordinated message is: This leak is a horrible breach of tradition, decorum, and of all that is holy! This is combined with a reluctance, if not an outright refusal, to talk about what Alito is saying and what it means if he is indeed speaking for the Court.
Here’s Mitch McConnell himself, who was almost comically determined to make the leak rather than abortion the sole topic of discussion today:
It appears to be universally assumed on the right that the leaker was from the left. There is actually zero evidence of that being the case. But pushing that narrative allows conservatives to quietly consolidate their apparent victory in the Court without talking about what that victory means, while depicting liberals as inveterate vandals trying to destroy judicial independence and “intimidate” good, honest jurists. McConnell immediately drew a parallel between the leak and court-packing schemes in his remarks to reporters. National Review editor Rich Lowry went further:
Tellingly, almost no one on the left criticized the leak — instead, many praised it as an act of brave defiance that reflects the gravity of the moment.
This is yet another sign of the hypocrisy of all the Trump-era lectures from progressives about the importance of norms and neutrally applied rules. As soon as a Supreme Court decision might go against them, they abandon all pretense of believing any of that and attempt to bludgeon the Court into submission.
Molly Hemingway at the Federalist should be given some sort of trophy for creative distortion, treating the leak and the subsequent protests outside the Supreme Court by people upset about the imminent loss of their rights as sort of a liberal version of the January 6 insurrection.
And there were a few Republican politicians who grimly denounced the leak while barely able to suppress grins about the implications of the draft itself:
So what’s going on?
You don’t have to be in on secret Republican messaging sessions to understand two interlocking facts: that the midterm election campaigns, which are focused on inflation and other problems that are invariably blamed on the party of the president, are going very well for Republicans, and that backlash to a decision abolishing a major Constitutional right by a Supreme Court stacked with Republican appointees is one of the few things that could turn the tide for Democrats, mitigating, if not overcoming, the carnage in November.
So Republicans want to change the subject very quickly. At the same presser where McConnell refused to address the substance of the abortion issue, John Barrasso got up to talk about — you guessed it — inflation:
Don’t think about you and your family members losing fundamental rights you’ve had for decades! Think about gasoline prices!
If the Supreme Court does completely reverse Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, you have to wonder if GOP congressional leaders will pass the word to their excited colleagues in red-state legislatures to hold off on criminalizing abortion until the midterms are over and it’s safe to go totally hog wild. As Kenny Rogers said in “The Gambler,” “There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.” Hold on to your wallets and cherish your rights while you still have them.
More on Life After Roe
- Abortion Wins Elections
- Republicans Race to Block Access to Ballots for Abortion-Rights Initiatives
- Walgreens Won’t Sell Abortion Pills in Red States Even Where It’s Legal