It was less than four years ago that a tearful, rageful Brett Kavanaugh, hours from being confirmed to a lifetime appointment to the most powerful judicial body in the United States, vowed to one day have his revenge for the ways he was wronged. “You sowed the wind,” he told Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The country will reap the whirlwind.”
I doubt that he envisioned that his opportunity to stick it to the people who he believed wronged him would come so quickly.
On Monday night, Politico released details of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that’s about to undermine nearly half a century of court precedent. For the approximately 73 million Americans who are women of reproductive age (and the untold millions who ostensibly give a shit about them), the news isn’t good.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” writes Justice Samuel Alito, a career-long foe of reproductive freedom. This marks the first time in the court’s history that a draft ruling has been leaked. If anybody with Susan Collins-levels of cluelessness needed a definitive sign that the court had gone the cartoonishly partisan way of the other two branches of federal government, this was it. Alito could have written his draft opinion in crayon on the back of an invitation to a Federalist Society Movie Night brochure and only been slightly more obvious.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for where we find ourselves today. The biggest share of the blame (or, from their perspective, “credit”) goes to the right-wing zealots who have been working toward this since the Reagan administration. If the fight against Roe were a person, they’d be old enough to be approaching the tail end of their reproductive years, if not past them already.
But we can’t talk credit and blame without recognizing the non-efforts of self-styled, self-preserving mainstream Democrats and moderates who didn’t take the threat against Roe seriously enough, or didn’t care enough to mount any kind of organized, strategic, long-term plan to save it beyond crafting fundraising email subject lines that made donors feel as though chipping in $10 would make some kind of difference in “the fight.” Pray tell: What fucking fight?
At the exact same time this news broke, my Instagram feed was a veritable museum of contemporary privilege as the mega-wealthy—from the Kardashians to Hillary Clinton—walked the Gilded Age-themed Met Gala red carpet in a display that felt borderline obscene. Blake Lively showed up dressed in a gown reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty! How very! I’m sure once they’re all done with their formal event, Anna Wintour’s favorite politically hashtagging liberal celebrities will find the time to post about how terrible this is before resuming their important work in promoting celebrity awareness.
While the leaked Alito opinion is still only a draft, if it were to be the court’s final ruling, upon its release abortion would immediately become illegal or restricted in at least 26 states. Concurring with Alito’s draft opinion are four of the court’s other conservative justices—Thomas, Gorsuch, Barrett, and, yes, Brett Kavanaugh, mother of whirlwinds.
Since the 2016 election, the court has lurched dramatically to the right, thanks to the pre-Trump election obstructionism of Mitch McConnell, the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kavanaugh now finds himself, ideologically, in the middle of things, which means in the 5-4 Roe v. Wade straw poll, he’s the swing vote.
This is all very ironic, and not in a “like rain on your wedding day” kind of way. In an editor’s note that reads “too on the nose, why don’t you take another pass at this” kind of way. Kavanaugh can do the right thing by the American people (more than 70 percent of whom do not want Roe overturned) or he can follow through on his threat to take out his rage on people who probably couldn’t pick him out of a lineup of schlubby suburban dads.
Not that this will make a difference in the fait accompli, but here’s an interesting bit of trivia: The average age of first-time mothers in the US is 26 years old. The average age of members of the U.S. House of Representatives is double that– about 58. The average age of U.S. Senators is almost 64. The average sex is “male.” I’m racking my brain and can’t think of a comparable legislative body where young women are able to make rules that govern the reproductive capacity of old men but can’t think of any outside of very niche fantasy sites that probably require some creative googling to find.
It’s absurd that we’ve arrived at this place, even though those of us on the “here comes the end of Roe” beat saw this coming even before Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement out of nowhere in 2018. I’m sure that when we check our inboxes tomorrow there won’t be “sorry about calling you hysterical” cards from Washington’s smarmiest dipshits who have spent the last forever telling us that our concern was overblown. Senator Susan Collins will still be a senator tomorrow. Kathleen Parker will still be a columnist for the Washington Post. Brian Stelter will still have a show on CNN.
In the Bullshit ecosystem, there are no consequences for being wrong, only rewards for doubling down.
Batten down the hatches.