Post-*Roe* democracy

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Seventh U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that she will be his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. With 38 days until the election, Trump tapped Barrett to be his third Supreme Court nominee in just four years and to replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

This week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 26

  • Roe overturned
  • Trump’s outsized effect on America 
  • Oklahoma race may not have a runoff

Post-Roe politics: With the leaked decision on Roe v. Wade now official, The question on everyone’s mind is the same one we asked months ago, when the decision first leaked. Will this affect the political landscape in 2022?

Once again, the answer is not obvious. No one should make the mistake of confusing the planned demonstrations that are currently going on with a groundswell of outrage over the decision. Moreover, within a few months, when a handful of states do outlaw abortion and others restrict it to European levels (that is, bands after 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy), most Americans will come to the realization that this issue does not directly affect them at all. And others still will likely recognize that there are better choices than abortion, simply because it is not as easily available to them.

From an electoral perspective, the reversal of Roe will likely have a limited effect. The abortion issue is not the most important for most voters, and for those who prioritize it, they tend to split pretty evenly. As previous polling has shown and as we have discussed, people are far more likely to view inflation and the economy as the most important issue. And indeed, although polling about the Dobbs decision and overturning Roe specifically shows that it is not popular, it is still not less popular than Joe Biden.

Indeed, this decision will probably have an effect in some states, specifically when legislators are pressed on the issue. But in those states which chose to act early on abortion — states like Idaho and Missouri, with — the effect will probably be a positive one for the pro-life side. In such states as California and New York, where abortion fanaticism has taken hold more strongly, we will soon get a better perspective on how important the issue is to the actual voters there.

The Trump effect: What is not in question is the outsized effect that Donald Trump had as president in a single term. Trump managed to appoint three Supreme Court justices in just four years. Two of them — Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — were were either directly or indirectly involved in upholding the court’s previous abortion precedent. This has been a monumental shift, leading to last week’s 6-3 decision to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and the 5-4 decision to overturn Roe entirely.

There is some irony, which has not been lost among Trump’s supporters, to the fact that a president with pro-choice political sympathies was the one to appoint the most conservative and anti-Roe justices to the court in the time since Roe was first decided in 1973. Ronald Reagan, of course, appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, who were extreme disappointments to conservatives after an era of liberal judicial goofiness.

George H.W. Bush famously appointed David Souter, who was far worse. Where Kennedy and O’Connor often strayed, Souter proved to be a genuine own-goal for conservatives on nearly every important issue. And then George W. Bush appointed Chief Justice John Roberts, whose spineless attempt to split the baby in last week’s Dobbs decision (he penned a concurrence that would have upheld the 15-week abortion van without overturning Roe, which surely would have had to be revisited a year or two later) has left it a weaker precedent then it probably should have been.

The fact is that, between Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Connie Barrett, Trump appointed an impeccable group of conservative justices who were willing to buck whatever political opinion said in order to follow the Constitution and the law faithfully, even where presidents with better long-term pro-life records failed. Early supporters of President Trump can consider this a feather in their cap. Where many conservatives distrusted him, he proved to be better than candidates with better conservative credentials on paper than he ever had.

We have noted this here before, but the main reason for Trump’s success as a conservative who had never been a conservative, the credit goes to a very Trumpian effect that the former president had on the Republican Party. So many of the usual Republican crowd that works in presidential administrations refused to be involved with his administration, that far more genuine conservatives were given positions of real power. 

This is why, although Trump was not an especially ideological politician or candidate, his administration was in many ways the most conservative in history. This was essential in guaranteeing that he made the best appointments of judges, in addition to many important regulatory questions that Trump’s administration had the opportunity to decide. This allowed his presidency to have an outsized effect, even considering its limited duration.

The result is that, although Reagan was the president to introduce conservatism back into America’s vocabulary, Trump may have been the most influential conservative president in modern history. The jury is still out, as the political effects of re-democratizing the abortion issue are unknown. But Trump’s influence could be much more positive and longer lasting than most people expected, especially after he lost in 2020.

January 6: The biggest loser in all this is probably the Democrats’ attempt to turn the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot into the big issue of the 2022 election. Almost no one has been paying attention to their show trial hearings, but the reversal of Roe has completely derailed their stagecraft and defanged the issue. As pro-abortion fanatics burn and vandalize pregnancy help centers, the memory of the capitol riot becomes less and less meaningful in the minds of average voters, who already had basically gotten over what happened more than 12 months ago.

Senate 2022

Missouri: Another new poll holds forth hope that someone other than disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens will win the primary next month. Attorney General Eric Schmitt leads him by five, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler is just one point behind him. Now at 20%, Greitens has clearly been knocked back by the realization that he is the least electable Republican in the field, not because of his views but because of the very personal conduct that forced him to resign from office.

Oklahoma: Last month, the race for the open U.S. Senate seat looked like it might go to a runoff between Rep. Markwayne Mullin and former Speaker T.W. Shannon. But a new survey shows Mullin is now at 39 percent in a new poll. WIth Shannon’s numbers drooping to just 13 percent in second place and 30 percent of the electorate undecided, this makes it increasingly likely that Mullin will get to 50 percent and win outright without a runoff.

Wisconsin: Sen. Ron Johnson just barely trails one of the leading Democrats vying for the nomination, according to the new Marquette University Law School poll, at two points behind, he trails Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, but he leads Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry by three. It’s a close race, but remember that this is how Johnson rolled in both of his victories for Senate. He trailed Russ Feingold by two points in the very last poll of 2016. Johnson has a history of overperforming. Given the right tailwinds in the midterm year, he will be in position to win a third term.