Now, at long last, we should be able to see clearly what we have done, how careless we were, how thoughtless, how gullible, how easily duped.
In just two days’ time, we have been shown the true legacy of 2016, the year when America lost its bearings and unaccountably elected a carnival barker — not to insult all well-meaning carny workers — as its president. In his single term in office, Trump would appoint, with the Machiavellian help of Mitch McConnnell, three Supreme Court justices — spelling the end to Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, furthering the erosion of sensible gun laws at the same time Congress finally passed a gun safety law and, while they were at it, dimming the distinction between church and state.
And there’s more to come. We don’t know what this ruling means for same-sex marriage, contraception or even sodomy laws. Sam Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, which looked a lot like the leaked one, insists overturning Roe will have no impact on other battles in the culture war. In a concurring opinion, though, Clarence Thomas said it could and it should. I’ve got to think Thomas, for once, is right.
The culture wars will continue to rage, and there will be many casualties. Just look at the current GOP assault on LGBTQ issues. Or look at the court’s overturning of New York’s 109-year-old restrictions on concealed carry. As George Will, of all people, pointed out, what about the conflicting rights of states to pass laws defending public safety? And there was the recent ruling weakening Miranda rights. In all these cases, from Roe on down, polls show the majority of the court represents the minority of the nation. But will that make a difference at the polls? Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi basically promised it would. Mike Pence, meanwhile, was calling for a nationwide abortion ban.
In Trump’s case, two impeachments have, of course, tainted his legacy. Thirty-thousand or so recorded lies haven’t helped either. If anyone with an open mind is watching the January 6 committee hearings, it’s clear that Trump is being deservedly crushed. But the overthrow of the constitutional right to an abortion — above all else — will be Trump’s lasting legacy.
I still don’t quite understand how a clown like Trump got himself elected in the first place or, for that matter, how the Trump cult has been able to maintain such a firm hold on the Republican Party. But if there were still any questions about the price we’ve paid for this mistake, they’ve now been answered.
As the January 6 committee holds one remarkable hearing after another, we have seen how close Trump came to actually overturning 200-plus years of American democracy. In the latest hearing on Thursday, we saw the three Trump appointees at the head of the Justice Department lay out for the committee the lengths a manic Trump would go to try to stay in power after losing to Joe Biden in 2020.
Even while claiming the election was rigged with the alleged help of either Italian satellites or Chinese thermostats — I’m serious; this stuff was actually investigated — Trump was actively conspiring to pull off a multi-directional coup, the last piece being the January 6, “Hang Mike Pence” attack on the Capitol.
The Justice Department leaders saved the day by refusing to join Trump’s conspiracy, informing him once again that all his crazy election conspiracy theories had been thoroughly debunked and by warning Trump that hundreds of DOJ employees would resign if he were to name low-level DOJ conspiracy theorist Jeffrey Clark to lead the department. White House counsel Pat Cipollone had apparently told Trump the idea was “a murder-suicide pact.”
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It would have been Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre on steroids, which is the only reason Trump backed down. Any honest Republican — say, like, Adam Kinzinger, who led the committee questioning Thursday — is going to have a hard time explaining how anyone could still support Trump after these hearings.
I mean, who’s lying — Trump or the guys from the DOJ? As Trump said in an explosive Jan. 3, 2021, meeting, the acting attorney general and his team must not follow the Internet as closely as he does. Yes, he actually said it.
When the hearings resume, the committee will focus on Trump’s inaction — and probably worse — during the January 6 insurrection. One thing we learned is that Trump — who was in constant contact with the acting attorney general, Jeff Rosen, in pushing unsupported conspiracy theories — never called him during the Capitol assault.
I don’t know if Trump will ever be indicted. Even after the DOJ’s Thursday morning raid on Clark’s house, which would obviously help build a case against Trump, I still tend to doubt it. But what it means for Trump’s chances in 2024 is another story, one yet to be told. Let’s just say I’d guess that no one is happier about these hearings than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who desperately wants to run and who edged past Trump in a recent New Hampshire poll.
Now the question is what Democrats and their allies do next. I’ve always thought that overthrowing Roe was not unlike, at the risk of resorting to cliché, the dog that finally caught the mail truck. Large majorities of Americans have said they didn’t want Roe overturned. Democrats will try to weaponize the Roe ruling — and the hearings — but I’m no longer sure what it will mean.
I know what it should mean. As the three remaining liberal justices wrote in a passionate 67-page dissent, the ruling to overturn Roe “says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs.”
Half the states, including Colorado, will still have access to abortion. Most of the states that won’t are solid red states. In these hyperpolarized times, is there any issue that would move the electorate?
I don’t know the answer. But if it’s not the end of Roe, I have no idea what it could be.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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