CSotD: While Democracy Slept (Part One)

Marc Murphy sums up the impending overturn of Roe v Wade, at least in its immediate significance. We’ll get into some more analysis tomorrow, since the flood of cartoons in the past 24 hours has yielded more good material than I have room for even in an extended posting.

Murphy demonstrates the power of minimalist commentary. It reminds me of a brilliant moment in the 1940 film City for Conquest, in which filmmakers could not, or would not, show Ann Sheridan’s character being raped, but simply showed a cast-off shoe as we heard her protesting off screen.

Letting your audience fill in the brutality for themselves can be more devastating than attempting to depict it.


Similarly, Ann Telnaes puts aside her well-established talent for ridicule and invective and simply imposes the opening words of the leaked draft over its target, with its words leading the viewer’s eye to the specific aspect of women that the impending overturn is intended to restrain.


Over at the New Yorker, Brooke Bourgeois rose to the moment, showing women too young to remember the struggle but aware of the legacy being shattered by the court in a moment that will indeed shake some foundations and smash some crockery.

It’s comforting to know that those of us old enough to remember the world pre-Roe have apparently passed along the history, however imperfectly. The response from these younger women, as seen in the street in front of the Court on last night’s news, shows that the anger is not confined to the older generation that struggled through the bad old days.

Though, to be honest, there is also a sizeable contingent of women who gather there to insist that the law should control reproductive rights, to which I would suggest that — with all due respect to Margaret Atwood’s classic novel, or, more likely, the TV serial made of it — simply dismissing pro-life women as “handmaidens” is an insult rather than a counterargument.

If you hope to persuade them that it is possible to be both pro-choice and against abortion, it will take a better argument than that.


One powerful moment in the struggle came in 1972, when 53 prominent women put their names on a double-page proclamation in Ms. Magazine, confessing to have (in most cases) broken the law and, in doing so, unleashed the open fact that abortion cannot be prevented nor should it have to be hidden.

Now, first of all, the women most likely to reject freedom of choice were also the least likely to read Ms. Magazine, and, second, the change came not from public polling but from a more representative Supreme Court.

However, the loosening of the bonds of secrecy and shame brought the issue more into the marketplace, where it then appeared before a Court that had not been stacked with the specific goal of repressing reproductive rights.


Times have changed since then, and, while at first glance Walt Handelsman makes the impending decision seem like an accident, he’s right that the signs were there. It’s not fair to blame pro-choice advocates for the disaster, but, then again, they should have seen this coming.

Or, we should say, more of them should have seen it coming, and, in particular, more of those who had a chance to head it off.


Having provided what proved to be the deciding vote in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Collins has taken a great deal of heat for her belief that he would not vote to overturn Roe, both in her immediate response to the leaked draft and from those who, like Jonathan Last, remember other misjudgments.

But AOC isn’t buying any late regrets from either Collins or Murkowski, particularly given not just the corrupt bargain by which McConnell double-talked his way around the clear intent of the Constitution in stacking the court, but given that Trump had openly declared his intention to nominate justices who would overturn Roe v Wade.

A lot of people are now declaring that these prospective justices lied in their confirmation hearings, assuring Senators that they considered the decision established law and therefore impervious to being overturned. I went back through the transcripts for Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett and found no such promises.

Rather, they declined to commit themselves, saying only that Roe was a powerful precedent.

That might be enough to fool the folks in the Peanut Gallery, but there’s a reason the Founders put the duty to advise and consent on the Senate: They did not expect that more senior part of Congress to be a gathering of gullible mooncalves.

Well, there are all sorts of things the Founders didn’t foresee, but the voters have as much responsibility for keeping the Constitution alive as does the Supreme Court, and, whoever rubber-stamped the approvals, the machinations by which McConnell delivered up that consecutive string of nominees does suggest “Fool me three times …”


I am not passing along any of several cartoons based on the leak and showing a “roe boat” being sunk, the “row v wade” pun having grown a beard before I could.

But Nick Anderson (Counterpoint) points out the hypocrisy of a party which celebrated and covered up a helpful leak that included criminal hacking but is now decrying one which likely broke a rule rather than a law. That’s a far more substantive commentary.


As is this piece by Matt Davies, given that the impending overturn is largely based on there being no specific mention of reproductive rights or personal privacy in the Constitution.

Or, at least, it doesn’t come up any more often than prohibitions on letting people know what the justices are pondering.

We can debate the law, but there’s little doubt about the hypocrisy.


And Michael de Adder ridicules the notion that “It’s only a draft,” because Alito not only left no doubt of his take on the matter but has had a majority sign on to his preliminary decision.

The question being debated now is whether it was leaked by a liberal hoping to shame a justice or two into changing sides, or by a conservative hoping to lock them into these unofficial positions.

I have no pearls to clutch, but my bet is on the latter, since the Court has become such a closed, clubby little clique, where justices are not bound by the most elementary sense of ethics.

That is, if you don’t have to recuse yourself on cases in which your wife might become an unindicted co-conspirator, you can bet the other club members’ response to this leak will not be a re-thinking of positions but, rather, a loyal circling of the wagons.


I have also declined to share cartoons featuring intact coat hangers. That may be a safer way to wave them around at rallies, but Dr. MacLeod shows the way they were untwisted when actually put into use.

And, thanks to the Court, will be again.

Perhaps you had to be there, and, by “there,” I mean holding someone while she wept and said, “If it hadn’t been for all those jokes about coat hangers,” and went on to explain that she had nearly bled to death and that she would now likely never be able to bear children, yours or anyone else’s.


I wish my granddaughters could gloss over that horrifying era, and leave it back in history the way we have romanticized and glossed over and half-forgotten the deadly brutality of slavery, now that it’s over.

Alas, we have no amendment protecting women from their gruesome past, as Steve Greenberg notes.

It’s good that Apple, Citibank and Amazon have pledged to pay travel expenses for employees who have to make this sad journey, and family doctors will, no doubt, continue to discreetly perform D&Cs for their favored patients.

But that’s not enough.

Not nearly enough.

Fortunately, three of my granddaughters are old enough to vote and adamant about doing so, because our hope lies with the Millennials and Gen Zs.

There will be no fix for this if their fury fades before November.

Come back for more tomorrow, because I’m already way over length, and we’re only a few tomorrows away from what must must must remain yesterday.


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