Reaganite radio talker leaves GOP. Lincoln, abortion, and the GOP.
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And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided shall not stand.
What Lincoln was saying in this speech was that the fatal conceit of judicial activism was using judicial fiat to resolve social issues. It not only was unconstitutional but perhaps more importantly ignored the critical nature of building a moral consensus on the social issue in question — in this case slavery. Political consensus, Lincoln believed, was an important and necessary component in bringing about lasting political change, of settling political conflict. That consensus, of course, in the American system, meant letting the American people decide — not judges. Decisions reached at the ballot box or in the legislative arena would over time ensure that whatever the political goal, the results would in fact be accepted by the American people. To do otherwise, to do as Chief Justice Taney and his six fellow Court justices were trying to do — which is to say, substituting their personal views for the rule of law — would only inflame the situation; exacerbating conflict, not resolving it.
And why did Taney and his fellow slave-owners want so desperately to impose slavery on America by judicial fiat? Because in fact the population and prosperity of the North was on the rise. The North would eventually out-populate the South, becoming politically dominant. If slavery were left to the democratic process, and the American people were given a — mark this word, Michael and Jennifer — a choice, Taney was convinced that eventually slavery would inevitably lose out, being rejected by the American people.
Which is to say, Lincoln’s idea of political consensus was so potent a threat to slavery that it was precisely what Taney wanted to avoid — and thus he removed the possibility of a choice to reject slavery altogether by simply inserting the right to own slaves into the Constitution.
Obviously, the attempt failed. The Civil War erupted. (How’s that for a bad reaction to the idea of politicizing the Court?) And when it ended, how did Republicans put an end to the social issue of slavery once and for all? Right. They used Lincoln’s approach of building political consensus by taking the issue to the American people and making their case, not just for ending slavery but for the rights of blacks. In succession — and over opposition from Democrats — they passed the 13th Amendment (which ended slavery, just as Taney had feared), the 14th Amendment (which provided ex-slaves with due process, again something Taney feared) and the 15th Amendment (which gave blacks the right to vote). Along with the Civil Rights bill of 1866 (which provided equal access to courts, contracts, etc.), the Civil Rights bill of 1871 (which was supposed to protect ex-slaves from the Democrats’ latest brain-child, the Ku Klux Klan), and the Civil Rights bill of 1875 (prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations.)
All of which set the stage for the next Roe v. Wade style decision — Plessy v. Ferguson.
There’s no need to rehash any more of this well-known very sad but instructive tale. Plessy borrowed Taney’s Dred Scott approach — and undid what was done through the ballot and the legislative process. Until the 1960s, black Americans spent almost another century in the un-shirted hell of racism and segregation, courtesy of judicial activism. Ditto Japanese-Americans being dragged from their homes, on the purest of racial grounds, in absolute violation of their Fifth Amendment rights.
Roe v. Wade is no longer a fresh topic. It’s been on the books since 1973, and as Lincoln could easily have predicted, it has done nothing to build political consensus on the abortion issue. It has, to the contrary, been savagely divisive, producing (just as Plessy did) an endless stream of vitriolic debate seasoned with violence. It has numbingly divided Americans with the labels of “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” It has served, Michael, as an instrument to thwart two Pennsylvania Governors with national ambitions: the Democrats Bob Casey, Sr., who was forbidden to even discuss his pro-life views at the Democrats’ 1992 convention; and Republican Tom Ridge, whose pro-choice views surely played a role in keeping him off the McCain ticket in 2008 (ditto with Connecticut’s Senator Joe Lieberman).
At some point, one has to ask, when is enough enough?
Michael and Jennifer, the ultimate irony in your views is the use of the term “pro-choice.” To be “pro-choice” is in fact to be “anti-choice.” In the spirit of Roger Taney and those slavery sympathizers of old, you are both apparently strong supporters of a judicial philosophy that is expressly designed to circumvent the real choices the American people wish to make — whatever those choices on abortion (or same-sex marriage) may turn out to be. It can only seem to others that your insistence on keeping Roe in place is because, like Roger Taney, you fear that the American people would reject your views at the ballot box.
Abandoning Mr. Lincoln’s wisdom and the core principles he supported — principles of building political consensus at the ballot box and through the legislative process — has proved to be a recipe for 37 years of disaster. In short, Michael and Jennifer, America has done it your way — and your way has failed. Miserably. Surely it is no coincidence that just like Dred Scott v. Sandford, which was decided by a 7-2 vote, Roe v. Wade, was also decided by an identical 7-2 vote. The terms Lincoln used to oppose the 7-2 vote of Dred Scott in 1857 are just as applicable to the Roe 7-2 vote of 1973 — both were “important decisions” reached without “unanimous concurrence.” Both effectively settled nothing and made things worse — much worse.
No one here begrudges either of you your personal views on abortion. But the judicial philosophy you both embrace, Michael to the extent of departing the GOP over its refusal to acquiesce in gutting what is literally a founding principle of the party and one of its celebrated Founder’s most significant (not to mention wise) principles, is, I must say, astonishing. And Jennifer, again, no one begrudges you your views on abortion either — but it is equally astonishing that you and your group would so fiercely embrace the core principles of Roger Taney and the slave-owning, and later segregationist-minded, judicial philosophy he championed. Respectfully, it is never a good idea to be terrified of facing voters over a significant issue just because you are afraid you will lose.
So Michael. You are a great guy. A good human being. A man of considerable talent who, even though I’d apparently find myself yelling at the set on occasion, should have his own TV show. And Jennifer, I have fond memories of husband Dave the whiz-kid Congressman and wish you both well.
But this is surely the most incredibly wrong way to go, and I’m sorry that Michael has said a “hasta la vista” to the Party of Lincoln — and Reagan.
There is nothing “extremist” in supporting Abraham Lincoln’s core principles, although I suppose it could certainly be seen as what you call a “strict ideological agenda.” There is nothing wrong with Lincoln’s insistence that social issues like slavery, basic human rights, the right to vote for blacks in the 1860s or women in the 1900s, the right to eat in a restaurant or drink out of a fountain — or today the right to have or not have an abortion, to marry a member of the same sex or not — must be solved in the political arena to build the moral consensus that will give the resulting decision a firm foundation.