Leavitt: A new Southern Strategy heats up 2020

Irv Leavitt

Many liberals think the Alabama and Georgia politicians who recently passed near-complete abortion bans are either stupid or crazy.

They’re crazy like foxes.

It is the latest example of liberal big shots underestimating white southerners, Republicans, and Donald Trump.

This one is a doozy.

The law may be the first step in resurrecting the entire Geriatric Old Party, and doing it without having to face most of its considerable problems.

Those include having hitched its wagon to Trump, the wackiest President Americans have ever stared open-mouthed at in the history of wackiness. If the GOP makes its way successfully through the South on the No-“Roe v. Wade” trail, wacky Trump may not matter.

Global warming may not matter. Immigration could be a sideshow. Unbalanced wealth would continue (but you didn’t have much hope for that, anyway, did you?).

Forty-eight percent of the adults in this country, as of 2018, are pro-choice, according to Gallup. Guess how many are pro-life? Forty-eight percent.

The level of conviction on each side is different, however. Those who are pro-choice are likely to say, “Personally, I don’t like abortion. But it’s none of my business to tell a woman what to do with her own body.”

Pro-life: “It’s not her body. It’s somebody else’s body inside her body. Aborting it is murder.”

People who believe abortion is murder would seem less likely to bend on the issue at a polling place than people who look at it as a mere human right.

So why have so many done so in the past?

Many Catholics and other people who are steadfastly against abortion base their political decisions on other issues. They can see that stopping abortion has been more of a loser with every year that passes since 1973, when the Supreme Court established nationwide legal abortion in “Roe v. Wade.”

The doctrine of “stare decisis” — that settled legal precedent should stay settled — has protected that decision.

But an attack on “Roe” is not a political loser anymore.

There are two reasons for that. One is that “stare decisis” is not feeling so well lately.

May 13, in the latest case in which the Supreme Court majority discarded precedent, “Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt,” the Court ruled 5-4 along conservative-liberal lines, establishing that a state cannot be sued in another state by a private party unless it gives its permission. That’s obscure, but trust me, it’s new.

“To overrule a sound decision like (Nevada v. Hall, 1979) is to encourage litigants to seek to overrule other cases; it is to make it more difficult for lawyers to refrain from challenging settled law; and it is to cause the public to become increasingly uncertain about which cases the Court will overrule and which cases are here to stay,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent.

Breyer then pointedly quoted a 1992 decision that described the settled-precedent reasoning to leave “Roe v. Wade” alone, and concluded, “It is far more dangerous to overrule a decision only because five Members of a later Court come to agree with earlier dissenters on a difficult legal question.

“The majority has surrendered to the temptation to overrule “Hall” even though it is a well-reasoned decision that has caused no serious practical problems in the four decades since we decided it. Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”

It’s apparent that Breyer now looks upon “Roe” as vulnerable. If “Roe” does go down, it’s a huge win for Republicans.

It’s the Super Bowl, the Nobel Prize and The Bachelorette all in one. Independents and formerly Republican Catholics might turn red by the millions.

What if either Justice Brett Kavanaugh or Chief Justice Roberts doesn’t go along? That could happen. But it might be great for the GOP if the Court is one vote short of an override, too.

That’s partly because almost everybody knows who liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is. There have been two recent movies about her, not including a cameo in “The Lego Movie 2.”

Everybody knows she’s old. By 2024, she’ll be 90. Sounds like a good reason to vote Republican, if you want to say so long to “Roe,” now that we know it’s hanging by a thread.

Pretty much no matter what happens or doesn’t happen on the Court, Republicans are likely to attract significant 2020 anti-abortion voters just by talking about it.

GOP politicians are already preparing by attacking the 2019 New York abortion-rights law, passed after Democrats took over that state’s government last fall.

The Internet is flush with questionable claims that the New York law will make 8th-month abortion commonplace. The point being made: “This is horrendous, but Republican leadership and a more conservative judiciary will end it.”

If the GOP is successful in overturning “Roe,” a result might be that the Democratic Party will have lost much of the momentum it gained from suffering through the Trump presidency. It would also lose the credibility it enjoys from protecting one of its core issues.

It would lose some of its constituency’s interest in getting out to vote.

Another result is that it becomes harder to get an abortion, especially in the South. Even in states where abortion remains legal, reductions in abortion rights mean even fewer practitioners, bigger gauntlets of protesters and a return to coat hangers.

Women will get abortions whether they’re legal or not, and regardless of whether any of the rest of us approve. How those abortions get done is a measure of the maturity of our nation.