Tag Archives: law

It’s The Culture, Stupid!

During Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, the “ragin’ Cajun” hung a huge sign in campaign headquarters proclaiming: It’s the Economy, Stupid!

That approach, focusing upon economic issues, was evidently a winner at the time. Right now, despite considerable economic turmoil and growing economic unfairness (Gilded Age #2, anyone?), that sign should probably read “It’s the Culture, Stupid!”

In fact, when I read reports about the suicidal stupidity of lawmakers at both the federal and state levels, I remind myself that they are fighting a rearguard battle–that changes in the culture have been “baked in” and will sooner or later make them irrelevant.

I don’t mean to minimize the harm these self-identified “Christian soldiers” can do in the meantime, nor am I suggesting that those of us who are appalled by mean-spirited attacks on everything from trans children to accurate history should take a vacation from activism. But I do believe that cultural change will win the day, and that most people who despair–young people, especially– fail to recognize just how rapid and profound such change has been.

Those of us who are older–okay, a lot older–have seen immense shifts in our own lifetimes. When I delivered a “Last Lecture” at my university, back in 2015, I pointed out that I’d lived through the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, the sexual revolution, the gay rights movement and truly explosive advances in technology, communication and transportation, all of which caused big shifts in public consciousness. Each shift has been accompanied by multiple less-remarked-upon, minor changes in our everyday lives. (Today you can wear jeans pretty much everywhere, and I haven’t seen a girdle in a very long time…)

What really brought the extent of cultural change home to me was research I’ve been doing for a book I’m co-authoring with Morton Marcus, who sometimes posts (usually sardonic) comments here. Morton and I have been friends for some thirty years, and our joint effort–titled “From Property to Partner”– traces women’s progress along that path. ( The book is in the last phase of copy-editing and will be available for purchase soon, at which time I will shamelessly urge you all to buy it.)

When women emerged from “barefoot and pregnant” status, we changed a number of cultural norms, and the extent of that change has been demonstrated in the reaction to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs. 

Jennifer Rubin was one of the many pundits pleasantly surprised by the unanticipated reaction to that first-ever withdrawal of a Constitutional right.

Who could have guessed that preserving access to abortion would be such a unifying position?

Given how divided our country is, and how loud voices seeking to criminalize the procedure have become, one might not expect abortion bans to be so unpopular. Yet polling shows that support for abortion care is remarkably consistent.

 A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds, “Just under two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that abortion should be legal in most or almost all cases,” including 68 percent of independents. Only one-third say it should be illegal in most or almost all cases. Even among Republicans, 36 percent favor legal abortion. And the percentage of the party that favors banning all or most abortions has declined from 21 to 14 percent in just over a year.

In fact, majority support for abortion access cuts across gender, racial, ethnic, educational attainment and age lines. That support also spans most religious groups. The PRRI finds, “White evangelical Protestants (27%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%), Latter-day Saints (32%), and Hispanic Protestants (44%) are the only major religious groups in which less than half of adherents say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.”

Unlike the many positions that divide Americans, support for reproductive rights is not limited to residents of Blue states. In  2018–before Dobbs— there were only seven states in which fewer than half of residents wanted abortion to be legal in most or all cases: South Dakota (42%), Utah (42%), Arkansas (43%), Oklahoma (45%), Idaho (49%), Mississippi (49%), and Tennessee (49%).

I don’t have access to surveys posing similar questions back in the 1950s, but I imagine the results would have been very different. (Not that women didn’t abort back then–they just didn’t abort safely. In my high school days, I was aware of at least two deaths of girls from botched terminations–as the saying goes, the law can’t prevent abortions, it can only prevent safe abortions.)

I’m sure the magnitude of the response to Dobbs came as a shock to the inhabitants of what I think of as “holdout communities”–the bubbles populated by men (and some women) determined to cling to the verities of a bygone society. Those folks need to brace themselves, because the culture has turned sour on plenty of their other pet issues.

And ultimately, culture prevails.


And Now, COVID…

Reactions to yesterday’s announcement that the President and First Lady have both tested positive for COVID-19 have been mixed, to put it mildly. A significant number–noting that the President rarely utters anything related to the truth–suggested it was another attempt at disinformation and/or distraction.

For those who accepted the accuracy of the announcement, most of what I have seen–especially on Facebook–invoked the concept of karma. To say that reactions aren’t overwhelmingly sympathetic might just be the understatement of the century. This is, after all, a President who has shown absolutely no concern for other people, including his own supporters. He has ignored and ridiculed advice offered by medical experts, including those in his own administration, and he has touted unproven and frequently ridiculous “cures” (ingesting bleach, anyone?). All of that is on top of the fact that he is one of the least likable people on the planet.

But quite apart from whatever our personal reactions may be,  the diagnosis raises some thorny legal and political questions, and the answers to those questions are unclear.

With a month to go until the election, Trump will quarantine for two weeks. He probably will not be able to attend the second debate–no loss there, considering the spectacle he made in the first–a consequence that will require the debate commission to decide whether to simply cancel the remaining two, or allow Biden to appear solo (unlikely).

We can already predict that Trump will attribute an election loss to his inability to hold rallies and otherwise campaign for the requisite two weeks.

Those consequences are predictable in the event that he suffers a relatively mild case of the virus. Far less predictable is what happens if this morbidly obese 74-year-old with an unhealthy diet who is known to ingest quantities of “uppers” becomes critically ill or even dies–and if so, when.

Pence has evidently tested negative thus far (“Mother” probably wouldn’t let him get too close to Hope Hicks, who presumably was the source). How sick would Trump have to get before Pence assumed the duties of the Presidency? If Trump were to become critically ill after the election but prior to January 21st, that would be one thing (and arguably not a bad thing–as vacuous and smarmy as Pence is, he’s less flat-out nuts than Trump).

The most chaotic and unpredictable set of events would be triggered by Trump’s death from COVID prior to Election Day. Would Pence automatically become the Republican nominee? Would Republican defectors be more comfortable returning to the fold if that were the case?

In a Presidency characterized by daily distractions, is this the mother of all diversions? Or does the diagnosis bring voters’ attention back to the President’s horrendous incompetence in containing the pandemic, and his obvious lack of concern for the over 200,000 Americans who have already died?

If Trump proves to have only a mild case, does he then use his own good fortune to further minimize the danger and dismiss expert advice?

I am not a praying person, and if I were, I doubt I’d find enough grace in my heart to pray for a psychopath who has done so much harm–a man with absolutely no redeeming human virtues.

I would, however, pray that his spitting and yelling during the “debate” didn’t infect Joe Biden. In fact–just in case I’m wrong and there is a personal God–I may go ahead and offer up that particular prayer. Call it covering my bases.