There have been calls for closure in the aftermath of last week's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. Some media outlets have even taken the rather extraordinary step of claiming that the issue is now "settled" and that they will no longer be printing any letters or opinion pieces to the contrary.
This sort of wishful thinking reminds me of the mess President Gerald Ford got himself into at one of the debates he had with Jimmy Carter in 1976. The President had signed the Helsinki Accords in August 1975. This was supposed to "settle" the borders of Soviet Union and the nations of eastern Europe. There was a certain illogic to it and Ford got into trouble trying to insist on it. The gaffe you are about to see helped lose him the election:
Today, of course, there is no Soviet Union, having been split into pieces. The Accord's "Inviolability of Frontiers" turned out to be quite meaningless.
In January 1973, the Supreme Court overturned the laws in most states that either regulated or criminalized abortions. In a 7 to 2 decision, Roe v. Wade made abortion "the law of the land" -- legal, everywhere in America.
In his dissent, Justice Byron White wrote: "I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant women and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes." Justice White, a Kennedy appointment, went on to chastise the Court for its "exercise of raw judicial power."
In the intervening 42 years, abortion has remained a constant issue -- with those who describe themselves as "pro-life" or "pro-choice" on abortion remaining somewhat evenly split. And while some pollsters, most notably the Gallup organization, claim that more Americans identifying as "pro-life" is "the new normal" -- in fact, the issue has become more nuanced (parental notification, partial birth abortion, funding for Planned Parenthood).
Not content with last week's victory, some advocates of same-sex marriage are already looking towards punishing their defeated adversaries. Adding to the predatory targeting of cake-shops, there has been some suggestion of stripping away the tax-exempt status of religious groups and affiliated organizations. And so the next 40 years will begin.
A writer I admire, Lillian Smith, was a good and tolerant liberal. A very brave woman, she one of the first Southerners to write about the evils of segregation, and lived long enough to see most of that system eradicated and reforms enacted. But at the end of her life, she became concerned that the love of ideology would trump humanity. In accepting the Charles S. Johnson Award, she wrote:
“It is his millions of relationships that will give man his humanity… It is not our ideological rights that are important but the quality of our relationships with each other, with all men, with knowledge and art and God that count.
The civil rights movement has done a magnificent job but it is now faced with the ancient choice between good and evil, between love for all men and lust for a group’s power.”
“Every group on earth that has put ideology before human relations has failed; always disaster and bitterness and bloodshed have come. This movement, too, may fail. If it does, it will be because it aroused in men more hate than love, more concern for their own group than for all people, more lust for power than compassion for human need.”
“We must avoid the trap of totalism which lures a man into thinking there is only one way, one answer, one option, and that others must be forced into this One Way, and forced into it Now.”
Totalism. One Way -- forced into it Now. Is this how we will begin the next 40 years?
It was a shock to see a couple GOP state senators this week at a legislative confab to celebrate the activities of a very partisan, very political lobbyist who worked for New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Yes, the one who billed the taxpayers for the young hookers. Have they gone mad?
Do they believe that the Court's decision changed the polling numbers among Republicans who vote in primary elections? Do they believe conservatives will be intimidated by threats to go after their places of worship? Really? Do Americans take intimidation well -- or does it just piss them off?
And what will be their outlet? Think about it.
Since 1991, Bill Winkler has provided research for more than 400 candidates. These have included candidates for Governor, U.S. Senate and Congress – as well as state and local races – and include studies for the Republican National Committee, Republican Senatorial Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican Governors’ Association, Republican Attorneys General Association, and over two dozen Republican State Committees