SATURDAY, JULY 2, 2022
Two out of three ain't half bad: Back in 1973, was Roe v. Wade correctly decided?
Inevitably, that calls for a subjective assessment. We don't have the expertise to speak to that point, which has been widely debated.
Let's move to a second question. Given the doctrine of stare decisis, should Roe v. Wade have been overturned last week?
We can't tell you that either. In the ultimate sense, neither can anyone else. We can tell you this:
In the most obvious sense, the route by which our blue tribe was handed last Friday's vast defeat runs through two presidential elections. As we've already noted, those two elections were these:
The 2000 election: Candidate Gore narrowly won the nationwide popular vote. Candidate Bush ended up in the White House.
Before he was done, he had nominated two Supreme Court Justices: Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.
The 2016 election: Candidate Clinton won the nationwide popular vote by almost three million votes. Candidate Trump ended up in the White House.
Before he was done, he had nominated three Supreme Court Justices: Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett.
Four of those Justices voted to terminate Roe v. Wade. In the most obvious sense, we got here by losing those two elections—elections in which we won the nationwide popular vote!
(So it goes with our creaking electoral systems.)
For the record, the ultimate way those elections were lost involves the early rise of The Crazy in modern American discourse. For the record, some of that early rise of The Crazy came from "the right-wing noise machine"—but a lot of it came from within the world of the upper-end mainstream press corps.
The Crazy was already active. Like the highly self-confident hare who managed to lose a race to the tortoise, our self-impressed tribe was too dumb to notice this fact, too lazy to push back in real time.
In the mid-1990s, we let the very holy Reverend Falwell spread his claims about the Clintons' many murders. Rush Limbaugh floated the notion that Hillary killed Vince Foster.
Starting in 1999, we let a cabal of upper-end mainstream journalists invent Candidate Gore's many troubling "lies." We let them stage their endless nervous breakdowns about his troubling wardrobe.
In short, The Crazy was already on wide display before Candidate Trump came along! Our self-impressed tribe was too dumb to push back. It's a huge part of how we got here.
Out of all this, one thing is quite clear—presidential elections matter! So do the views and the viewpoints of our fellow citizens in the red tribe—the people who went out and voted for Candidates Bush and Trump.
You may not agree with their views and opinions, but they do have a right to their views. They're American citizens just like we are, and they won't be going away.
If we want to receive more votes, we have to win some such voters over. We have to persuade an array of our neighbors and friends—the very people we may be inclined to denigrate as Others.
How do we manage to win more votes? That's more an art than a science.
Concerning the art of winning votes, let's return to a buzz phrase invented by the first Candidate Clinton. We refer to the campaign talking point in which he said he wanted abortion to be "safe, legal and rare."
As of 2019, that famous phrase had come under widespread review. It was widely noted that Candidate Hillary Clinton had dropped the part about abortion being "rare" during her run in 2016.
The reasons for this rhetorical shift were widely discussed in 2019. To see the discussion published by Vox, you can just click here.
Concerning the original formulation, we would only say this:
President Clinton had given voice to a three-part dream. Two parts of his dream—"safe" and "legal"—were directed at Us and reflected our views.
In the third part of his dream—the part in which he said the word "rare"—he was paying a bit of respect to the outlooks and views of The Others.
Safe, legal and rare! This was always a mere talking-point, a rhetorical bumper sticker. It wasn't a legislative proposal. It was simply something you said to present yourself to the voters.
Two of his points paid homage to Us—and, by traditional reckoning, two out of three ain't half bad! But by the time Campaign 2016 arrived, many of our blue tribe's activists were already rebelling against such acts of cultural deference.
Even in our rhetorical talking points, we wanted it all our way.
As far as we know, Hillary Clinton didn't "lose" to Donald J. Trump because she abandoned the third part of her husband's talking point. (She had used the original formulation back in 2008.)
Beyond that, we aren't saying that anyone's particular view of abortion and abortion rights is "wrong." We're speaking to the politics, to the outreach—and to nothing else.
Within the past week, since last Friday's defeat, a famous phrase from American history has been rattling around in our heads. It's found in the very first paragraph of a famous American document, such as that document was:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind [sic] requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The founders, such as they were, wanted to display a decent respect for the opinions of humankind. Within our blue tribe, it might not be the worst idea if we took that approach more often.
By normal reckoning, The Others are entitled to their viewpoints and views, just the way we are. By the rules of the game, if we want them to see the world our way, we have to go out and persuade them.
In large point, Bill Clinton was able to win by six and eight points because he was skilled at displaying a decent resect for the opinions of humankind—even for the opinions of people who weren't inclined to support him. So it was with his view of Arkansas' Pentecostals, a view we discussed last week.
No, he didn't share their views, especially about abortion rights, but he was willing to say that he'd never met finer people. Similarly, he threw the pro-life crowd a bone when he added that third word: "rare."
Abortion never did become "rare" during the era is question. Nothing in President Clinton's proposals was designed to make it so.
He was simply throwing The Others a bone, saying he didn't loathe them. Our tribe has been moving away from that stance as the tribalization of the past thirty years has advanced.
Our tribe has always been self-impressed. We're inclined to look down on The Others.
We've displayed this trait for the past many years. Now we've been handed a savage defeat, a bit like the hare who took a nap by the side of the road as the slow-moving tortoise blew past him.
The hare was much too self-impressed. His arrogance brought on his defeat—and then too, it was quite unattractive.