The Economy

White House’s 2021 Fourth of July Cookout Tweet Did Not Age Well

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The Biden family watches the fireworks from the White House during the celebration of Independence Day in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Some might remember a much-derided White House tweet from 2021, boasting that Americans would save a whopping 16 cents on their families’ Fourth of July cookouts compared with 2020. The source for that tweet was the American Farm Bureau, which does an annual survey of how the costs of the cookout change from year to year.

The bureau released its 2022 report today, and the cost of an Independence Day cookout rose more than ten dollars from last year. Americans’ parties will cost them $69.68 this year, rather than the 2021 total of $59.50, a 17 percent increase.

In addition to the total cost of the barbecue, the bureau lists the price changes of individual items. Last year, the White House listed the bureau’s estimates for half of the items, whose costs fell from 2021 (it left out the other half because their costs increased). Almost all the items the White House listed as cheaper last year became more expensive this year. Here are their price increases: pork and beans rose 33 percent, ground beef rose 36 percent, vanilla ice cream rose 10 percent, center-cut pork chops rose 31 percent, and lemonade rose 22 percent.

The only items in the White House’s tweet whose price decreased from last year were sliced cheese and potato chips, the prices of which decreased 13 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Because their cost rose in 2021 compared with the year before, strawberries were left out of last year’s tweet, but their cost is 16 percent lower in 2022, the only item to decrease other than the two aforementioned.

If we were to put a positive spin on the bureau’s report, we could say that the low savings of 2021 mitigated the high increase of 2022. Instead of losing $10.18 from 2020 to now, we only lost $10.02. Maybe those 16 cents will help at the gas pump.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Cryptocurrency Regulation

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Steve Hanke and Matt Sekerke write about the Lummis-Gillibrand Responsible Financial Innovation Act:

The draft Lummis-Gillibrand Responsible Financial Innovation Act was unveiled on June 7 to much fanfare. The names of Senators Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) on the bill suggest a bipartisan solution bridging the world of finance as it currently exists and the Wild West of cryptocurrencies, digital tokens, “smart” contracts, and decentralized, autonomous organizations.

Lummis and Gillibrand have put together a Rorschach test of a bill. As far as we can tell, the only thing animating it is the belief that innovative digital currencies already exist, or soon will. But if you take away that belief, the bill does very little. As art, satire, or a mirror for the mass delusion of crypto, it may be perfect; but as legislation, it is deeply unsatisfying.

Read the whole thing here.

Law & the Courts

Justice Thomas, Alone, Wants to Revisit New York Times v. Sullivan

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Associate Justice Clarence Thomas poses during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Pool via Reuters)

Justice Thomas dissented this morning from the Supreme Court declining to hear a defamation case against the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling a Christian organization a “hate group” (a designation that has led, in the past, to violence against an SPLC target). Coral Ridge, the Christian group in question, was barred as a result from AmazonSmile, Amazon’s charitable-giving platform. Thomas wants the Court to reconsider its decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, which imposed a First Amendment rule requiring a heightened standard of “actual malice” to prove a defamation case brought by a public figure — i.e., that the defamer knew or recklessly disregarded the truth. Thomas:

New York Times and the Court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law. . . . Those decisions have no relation to the text, history, or structure of the Constitution. . . . We have never even inquired whether the First or Fourteenth Amendment, as originally understood, encompasses an actual-malice standard . . . I would grant certiorari in this case to revisit the “actual malice” standard. This case is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity . . . SPLC’s “hate group” designation lumped Coral Ridge’s Christian ministry with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis. It placed Coral Ridge on an interactive, online “Hate Map” and caused Coral Ridge concrete financial injury by excluding it from the AmazonSmile donation program. Nonetheless, unable to satisfy the almost impossible actual-malice standard this Court has imposed, Coral Ridge could not hold SPLC to account for what it maintains is a blatant falsehood. . . . Because the Court should not insulate those who perpetrate lies from traditional remedies like libel suits unless the First Amendment requires us to do so, I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari. (Quotations and citations omitted).

Thomas is right that the constitutional foundations of New York Times v. Sullivan are dubious and ought to be considered more closely. This is not only an argument from the right: If the Court were to follow Democrats’ demand to overrule Citizens United and reject the notion of corporations having First Amendment rights, it would have to overturn New York Times v. Sullivan, which deals explicitly with how to prove the actual-malice state of mind of a corporate defendant. That being said, there would be some significant stare decisis arguments for retaining New York Times v. Sullivan, given that the standard has proven workable in practice, and it is far from clear what would replace it. This is likely to remain a constitutional windmill that is impervious to Thomas’s jousting.

World

Right to Exist

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Students pose outside a damaged building for a high-school graduation photo in Chernihiv, Ukraine, June 5, 2022. (Instagram / @senykstas / Handout via Reuters)

“Russia strikes Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe,” reads a headline from the Associated Press. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the report:

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the missiles hit at least two residential buildings, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a 37-year-old man was killed and his 7-year-old daughter and wife injured. Associated Press journalists saw emergency workers battling flames and rescuing civilians.

The strikes also damaged a nearby kindergarten, where a crater pocked the courtyard. U.S. President Joe Biden called the attacks “barbarism” after he arrived in Germany for a Group of Seven summit.

Yes, barbarism. That’s what the Ukrainians are up against, immediately. And that’s what the rest of us are up against, ultimately. For the Dispatch, Klon Kitchen wrote an article subheaded “We should give the Ukrainians what they need to win, for their sake and ours.”

• Another headline from the AP: “Biden urges Western unity on Ukraine amid war fatigue.” (Article here.) That heading is entirely apt. But “war fatigue” can be odd. This fatigue is often felt by people who are doing no fighting or dying in the war whatsoever. They are simply, for example, sick of reading about it. They are ready to “move on.”

• Ukrainians can’t afford fatigue for they are fighting for their very right to exist. That is the heading of an article by Natalia Melnyk: “Ukrainians Are Fighting For Their Right To Exist.” The closing paragraph reads,

Russia is not our liberator; it is our tormenter. Its authoritarian rulers have no respect for human rights. Our choice is to fight for our freedom — or live under Putin’s oppressive rule. We choose to fight.

This ought to earn the admiration of people who value freedom.

• The Ukrainians are doing extraordinary things to save their country, and their countrymen. Here is an article on “Ukraine’s secret, deadly rescue missions.” People are willing to risk their lives to rescue their fellow man, in peril. There’s great hatred in the world — savagery, barbarism — but there is also great love, and courage.

• Many people shrink from the idea of good and evil. They think it is simplistic. Many, many situations are gray. Nonetheless, there are situations that present the black and white of good and evil. People try to muddy these situations. Don’t let them get away with it, if at all possible.

• Individuals, as well as nations and peoples, ought to be known. Here is Andrii Verkhohliad. As Anton Gerashchenko explains, Verkhohliad had been fighting since 2014, when Russia initially invaded. Now he is dead. “We have one purpose,” Verkhohliad said in a video: “the independence of our Ukraine.” He spoke of “freedom for our children, freedom for our parents, and freedom for our country.” Pretty basic. But pretty important, too. Not to be spat on, I wouldn’t think.

Here is a woman named Tetiana Antoniuk, a journalist, 70 years old. “Badly beaten up,” says Gerashchenko. “They broke her spine because she refused to give away her [Ukrainian] passport when evacuating.” There are many, many such stories. Such facts and barbarities. To know a few is to know the many.

• Myroslava Gongadze introduces us to a man named Volodymyr, 70, from Moshchun. He sheltered 27 of his neighbors during a Russian occupation. “When they were able to escape,” says Gongadze, “the Russian forces took over his home and then destroyed it completely.”

• “Bucolic Ukraine forest is site of mass grave exhumation,” reads another headline from the AP. These articles are hard to bear. But all that we foreigners have to do is read (or not). The Ukrainians themselves have to live the articles, so to speak.

This one says,

The hands of several victims were tied behind their backs. . . .

Workers wearing white hazmat suits and masks used shovels to exhume bodies from the soil of the forest, marking each section with small yellow numbered signs on the ground. The bodies, covered in cloth and dirt, attracted flies.

“Shots to the knees tell us that people were tortured,” Andriy Nebytov, head of the Kyiv regional police, said at the scene. “The hands tied behind the back with tape say that people had been held (hostage) for a long time . . .”

For the complete article, go here.

• An article by Mark Krutov, of RFE/RL, if you can bear it. (Those initials stand for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.) “Dungeon Of Death: Survivor Recounts Dire Conditions For Captives Of Russian Soldiers In Ukraine Basement.” The article begins, “The elderly and sick died quietly.”

• Pundits in the Western media like to decide what the future of Ukraine will be. I hope that Ukrainians themselves will have some say. “Just give up territories!” say our pundits. “End the war!” The thing is: The Ukrainians aren’t fighting for mere territories — mere dirt. They are fighting for the people in those territories — endeavoring to save them from murder, rape, deportation, subjugation.

That is very, very hard for some people to understand, strangely.

Ukraine is not a mere game, a tussle between powers: Putin vs. Biden and all that. No, real flesh-and-blood lives are at stake, every day.

And anyone who thinks that Putin will be sated with territories has never met him. Or never listened to him.

• For years, our Putin apologists have said, “He’s spooked by NATO, you know. He’s encircled. Russia has legitimate security concerns. People in the east of Ukraine want to be with Russia. A State Department official named Victoria Nuland keeps pulling the strings in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is a Nazi junta.” Blah blah blah. They’re still at it. The thing is, Putin keeps pulling the rug out from under them. Because he is blunt about his imperial ambitions.

I recommend an article by the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov: “How Far Do Putin’s Imperial Ambitions Go?” The subheading reads, “The Russian president and his inner circle speak openly about retaking the vast lands that Moscow once controlled. As the war continues in Ukraine, Russia’s neighbors are taking the threats seriously.”

Here are the first three paragraphs of Trofimov’s article:

“At the Bering Strait with the United States,” the 9-year-old boy ventured hesitantly. Mr. Putin, who chairs the board of the Russian Geographic Society, contradicted the boy to triumphant applause. “The borders of Russia,” he pronounced, “never end.”

The scene, years before Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine unleashed the biggest war in Europe since World War II and triggered a breakdown between Russia and the West, illuminates a conviction deeply held by many in Moscow’s establishment: that Russia has the natural right, and the existential need, for territorial expansion.

Until recently, this imperial belief was often couched in language that is more acceptable in the 21st century, such as security concerns about NATO’s expansion or apprehension about alleged discrimination against Russian-speaking minorities. Since the war began, however, calls for seizing new lands have become much more explicit.

Oh, yes.

In this article, Trofimov quotes Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia. Putin, she says, “is also after the Baltic countries if he succeeds in Ukraine, and this is why we have to do everything so that he doesn’t succeed in Ukraine, because otherwise his appetite will only grow. If he gets away with this, nobody can feel safe.”

Those words ought to be repeated: “If he gets away with this, nobody can feel safe.”

• In the West, and the United States in particular, I have noticed the usual amount of pro-Putin sentiment. He is the great nationalist (even as he slaughters to rebuild the Russian and Soviet empire). He is the guardian of Christendom. He is our champion against the woke. He’s stickin’ it to the homos and the neocons. All that.

Even more — as usual? — there is anti-anti-Putin sentiment. A resentment of Ukraine. An instinct and itch to defend Putin. An allergic reaction to anything involving freedom or a freedom struggle. Anything touching on freedom, democracy, and human rights. I get this reaction all the time. A furious reaction. I used to get it from the left, pretty much exclusively — especially when I wrote about Cuba — but now I get it from the other direction, too.

A state GOP official told me, in some pain, that many of his troops were anti-Ukraine. Why? Because they associate Ukraine and its struggle with Biden and the Democrats. Simple tribalism is always at work. Always.

Would the Democrats be less supportive of Ukraine if the U.S. had a Republican administration? A Reaganite administration? A GOP administration in the freedom-loving, democracy-supporting vein? I have no doubt.

Then there is the factor of Russian propaganda. The reach of the Kremlin’s propagandists is long. It was thus in Soviet days and it is thus now. Indeed, the Kremlin has many veterans of the USSR — starting with the KGB colonel in charge. I hear Russian propaganda repeated to me by good red-blooded Americans, and I am almost — almost — impressed, with the skill of Putin’s guys.

Finally, there are people who simply want peace and quiet. I can understand them (and I am among them, of course). I wrote a whole book on the subject. A Ukrainian defeat, and a Russian victory, would not bring the Ukrainians peace and quiet — the peace and quiet of the grave, maybe. (I am echoing Margaret Thatcher here.) And it would not bring the rest of us peace and quiet either.

To be continued . . .

Politics & Policy

The Bizarre Argument That Hillary Clinton Should Launch a Comeback Now

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Hillary Clinton gestures at a news conference to promote the movie “Hillary” during the 70th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 25, 2020. (Michele Tantussi/Reuters)

This would seem to be a particularly odd and unusual time to hear people talking up the prospects of a Hillary Clinton comeback. And yet, here we are. Juan Williams, writing in the Hill:

Democrats need a strong voice ready to fight to restore women’s rights, now that the Supreme Court has struck down Roe v. Wade.

There’s only one Hillary Clinton.

. . . Clinton is exactly the right person to put steel in the Democrats’ spine and bring attention to the reality that “Ultra-MAGA” Republicans, as President Biden calls them, are tearing apart the nation.

John Ellis, who is usually pretty astute and thought-provoking, and who might just be trolling here:

Now is her moment. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade creates the opening for Hillary Clinton to get out of stealth mode and start down the path toward declaring her candidacy for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.

Ellis does lay out the legitimate points that Biden is too old, few Democrats have any faith in Kamala Harris, and the Democratic bench is weak. But those problems do not naturally lead to the conclusion that it is time for Hillary Clinton to come out of retirement.

Hillary Clinton is 74 years old, and will be 77 years old on Election Day 2024, numbers that look young only compared to Joe Biden. (She is one year, four months, and twelve days younger than Donald Trump.) She is the only person on earth who has lost a general election to Donald Trump. The last time she won a general election was her Senate reelection campaign in 2006, which was before the iPhone was invented. The last time Hillary Clinton won a general election, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was a graduate student at Oxford, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was an undergraduate at Boston University, and senator Jon Ossoff was an undergraduate at Georgetown University.

A poll from earlier this year found Hillary Clinton with 97 percent name recognition; 36 percent said they like her, and 41 percent said they do not like her. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Clinton’s reputation in those numbers is how many Americans no longer have much of an opinion about her at all. In many ways, the modern Democratic Party has moved on from her. Her recent advice to Democrats to stop focusing on fringe issues didn’t even generate much of a stir:

“We are standing on the precipice of losing our democracy, and everything that everybody else cares about then goes out the window,” she says. “Look, the most important thing is to win the next election. The alternative is so frightening that whatever does not help you win should not be a priority.”

Another instance is the “defund the police” campaign, she adds. “You need accountable measures. But you also need policing. It doesn’t even pass the common-sense politics test not to believe that. Some positions are so extreme on both the right and the left that they retreat to their corners . . . Politics should be the art of addition not subtraction.”

Not only are most Americans not looking to Hillary Clinton to guide them out of our current political and social divisions; most Democrats aren’t looking to her, either.

None of this suggests that she is a strong choice to be the face of Democrats in the midterms, nor a good choice to be the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2024. But you know who’d probably love to see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee next time?

Former President Donald Trump waves to the crowd at the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky., May 7, 2022.
Politics & Policy

Join Ryan Anderson, Xan DeSanctis, and Me This Morning to Talk Life after Roe

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Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing by Ryan T. Anderson & Alexandra Desanctis (Regnery Publishing/Amazon)

Today is the last day you can pre-order Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing by Ryan T. Anderson and NR’s own Alexandra DeSanctis. You can meet them in person at 11 a.m. this morning if you are in D.C. and want and come to be together on this first Monday after Roe. And you can watch from anywhere on livestream by RSVPing here.

I’ll post the video as soon as I have it after the fact.

And buy the book. The title says it all. It’s a help in moving forward.

National Review

Bone Dry: The New Issue of NR Is Out

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(Cover: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“There is a classic paradox in economics: Water is cheap, but diamonds are expensive, though one is essential for life and the other is not.”

But what happens when water becomes scarce? In the cover story for the new issue of National Review, “Running Dry in the American West,” Shawn Regan, vice president of research at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont., surveys the effects that a record drought will have on America west of the Mississippi.

“There are more water rights on paper,” Regan writes, “than there is actual water to go around, and everyone is lawyered up with arguments for why cuts should fall on others instead of themselves.”

The problem is a combination of drought, bad luck, NIMBYism, and, yes, governmental regulation that prevents water from being distributed efficiently through market mechanisms.

As usual, however, Americans are learning to shoulder a sclerotic government aside and get on with it by attempting to “adapt to scarcity without sacrificing economic growth.”

The biggest opportunity to continue this progress is in the agricultural sector, which uses more than 80 percent of the water consumed in the West. Farmers also have found ways to increase yields and earnings in the face of shrinking water supplies, sometimes by switching to less water-intensive crops or installing more-efficient irrigation systems.

Technology combined with a freer markets, adaptive farmers, and deregulation may prove to be the way out of this. But recycling treated wastewater, building desalination plants, and advanced farming and irrigation methods are all great — until government gets in the way:

“In May . . . the California Coastal Commission” — a state agency — “rejected a large-scale desalination project in Orange County that would have supplied residents with 50 million gallons of drinking water a day.”

Read the whole thing here.

What else is in the new July 11, 2022, issue of NR?

In “Lessons from the January 6 Hearings,” Dan McLaughlin catalogues what just we’ve learned — despite the committee’s flaws.

In “Scorched Earth in Arizona,” John McCormack takes a look at the broiling Republican Senate primary in the Grand Canyon State, which pits attorney general Mark Brnovich against wealthy businessmen Jim Lamon and Blake Masters, the latter of whom is backed by Peter Thiel.

Andrew Follett examines how much damage woke ideology is having on scientific rigor in “Too-Political Science.”

Rick Brookhiser sings coffee’s praises in “The Elixir of Life.”

And Ross Douthat wonders why Pixar’s new flick Lightyear has landed with such a thud in “To Mediocrity and Beyond.”

Finally, don’t miss the excerpt of Ryan T. Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis’s just-published book, Tearing Us Apart: “Making Abortion Illegal and Unthinkable.”

If you’re not an NR subscriber, you can get all this and more by joining NRPLUS.

You can pick up a full year of dead-tree, hardcopy magazines for just $24 — 60 percent off the usual price. That’s 24 issues at just $1.00 per issue.

If you want a digital-only NRPlus subscription, you can get it for just 40 bucks — 60 percent off the standard 12-month price. That’s one year of complete access to NationalReview.com and the digital (paywalled) magazine for less than $1.33 per week.

And if you’re a bundler, you can take home 24 print issue and one-year of the NRPlus digital membership for just $52. The bundle is our best value — and it’s also 60 percent off the standard price.

We invite you to check out the new magazine out here.

Politics & Policy

Two Famous Universities That Have Acted Infamously

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College and university presidents have in recent years often made spectacles of themselves by choosing to side with the leftist campus mobs rather than doing justice. Currying favor with the “woke” forces is evidently far more important.

In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Richard Vedder ruminates about two such instances, namely the travesty at Duke over the accusations made against members of the lacrosse team and the treatment of Princeton’s Professor Joshua Katz over his criticisms of the BLM movement.

Back in 2006, Duke’s president, Richard Brodhead,  went ballistic against the entire lacrosse team and its coach when the campus mob demanded vengeance. It turned out later that the accusations were false, but Brodhead didn’t have the guts to withhold judgment until the facts were known.

And just recently, Princeton’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, has similarly covered himself in shame for demanding that Professor Joshua Katz, a tenured and highly esteemed member of the faculty, be terminated.

Vedder writes, “For those unfamiliar with the case, Prof. Katz was fired over alleged improprieties related to an offense—having consensual sexual relations with a 21-year-old girl—that took place over 15 years ago (!). Only after Katz started saying things that the Princeton administration did not like did it punish him for that incident. Fully a dozen years after the 2006 transgression, it suspended Katz without pay for one year. Then, in 2020, Katz expressed his disapproval of so-called anti-racist demands made by some members of the Princeton community after the George Floyd killing. That led to a story in The Daily Princetonian about the 2006 incident, prompting the school to reopen the case, accuse Katz of new improprieties related to the incident, and fire him.”

So, a professor has been fired because his views upset a vocal part of the campus community. Freedom of speech? Not if you say “offensive” things.

Vedder proceeds to explain in detail what is so revolting about Princeton’s action against Katz. He also observes that Princeton has adopted the “Chicago Principles” for free speech — but chose to ignore them when faced with a controversy.

He concludes, “Because of government subsidies, the potency of market forces is weakened in the case of universities, but it still exists. Ignoring widely accepted values like free expression and due process has consequences that will weaken the public support that is critical to colleges’ success.”

U.S.

All-American Boys, Etc.

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Diego Rodriguez pitching in his Little League, San Antonio, Texas, June 17, 2020 (Ronald Cortes / USA TODAY Sports)

Leading my Impromptus today is the subject of Roe v. Wade, and the question of abortion generally. I begin, “Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, unmoored from the Constitution.” It was amazing to write “was”: was a bad decision. We have been writing “is” all of our lives, or most of our lives. I also discuss wokeness in the workplace, voting with one’s feet, etc. In the mix are two athletes: one famous (Shohei Ohtani) and one less so (Sydney McLaughlin, a hurdler). Both are must-sees.

I would like to publish some reader mail, in response to my column last Friday. That one was headed “The American experience, &c.” A Chicagoan writes,

I love to talk to taxi drivers. They are usually immigrants, and they often have great stories about their journey to America. For a few years, I had a regular guy I would call for early-morning trips to O’Hare. (I could count on him not to be late and liked to start his day at O’Hare with a nice fare already earned.) We got to know each other a bit. He was an Algerian who came to America by way of Paris, where he had been in business with his brother. (After-market auto parts, I think.) One day I asked him why, if his Algerian citizenship entitled him to remain permanently in France, he had come to the U.S. He turned to me with a look that said, “I thought you were smart. How can you ask such a dumb question?” And he said, “In France, we could never be French. But here, my son is an all-American boy.” Such pride in his voice and on his face. Almost moved me to tears. Still does.

In my column on Friday, I included a picture of a sweet little house in Ann Arbor, Mich. (my hometown). A reader writes,

Jay,

I enjoyed that little house in Ann Arbor. I just finished reading your column while sitting on my little screened-in porch, as the cardinals, the finches, and the chickadees flocked around the feeders just beyond the screen.

My wife and I are just shy of 70, and we had planned to take a number of hiking journeys in our retirement. But she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, and while she is still at home, our ambitions are very changed. Now it is enough to get her dressed and breakfasted, and enjoy some time on the porch in the morning air, and to attempt nothing much grander than keeping the birds content with sunflower seed, which is pretty grand itself, especially since four or five of those seeds have taken root below the feeder and are blossoming as I write. We learn to settle for less; and there are times, as the cliché has it, when less can be more.

Hard to follow that letter — but follow it I will, with a quick note on language. In a post, I said a little about how we talk in Michigan, or at least southeastern Michigan. We tend to apostrophe-ess things. What I mean is: We shop at Meijer’s, or Kroger’s, or Hudson’s. (Not sure whether Hudson’s still exists.) We work at Ford’s (or “out to Ford’s,” if you’re really down-home). And so on and so forth. A reader writes,

Hello, Mr. Nordlinger,

Yes, it’s the Buckeye mom again. . . . My first job was in Michigan, working at Ford’s. Seemed odd to me at the time, but that’s how locals perceived it. I always heard, “I work at Ford’s” — as though the company were not a huge corporation but simply Mr. Ford’s place. . . .

Another turn of phrase I never heard growing up in a steel town full of immigrants (most of us kids were first-generation), and which was omnipresent at Ford’s, was “ink pen.” Is there any other kind?

Again, thank you for Impromptus and the light you shine on freedom.

Ah, yes, “ink pen.” But we had so many southerners in Michigan — migrants — you mainly heard “ink pin.” “Can you get me a ink pin?” The soundtrack of my youth. I’m about to tear up . . . (Also, you had a “vanella shake,” and sometimes you even drank “melk.”)

Great thanks to all readers and correspondents. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.

Culture

A Word on Port Huron and Sharon

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)

Charles Hilu’s “The Port Huron Statement at 60: Still Not As Good As Its Counterpart” offers a welcome moment for reflection on the state of our politics since the 1960s, contrasting the New Left’s famous 1962 “Port Huron Statement” with its immediate conservative predecessor, the Young Americans for Freedom’s founding “Sharon Statement,” penned by the legendary M. Stanton Evans in 1960. In the historic context of Roe v. Wade’s demise — what Philip Klein aptly dubbed “the greatest victory in the history of the conservative movement” — it’s helpful to reflect on the beginnings of the two ideological projects that, to one degree or another, define our central political debates today: The conservative movement on the one hand, and the post-1960s New Left on the other. (As an aside, I do think Hilu is too dismissive in his conviction that “today, the Port Huron statement appears to be dead” — in many ways, its ethos defines the orthodoxy in our elite institutions today).

In contrasting the Port Huron and Sharon Statements, Hilu writes:

While Port Huron was created in despair, Sharon was drafted in hope. YAF members meeting at William F. Buckley Jr.’s home in Sharon, Conn., in September 1960 gathered there to “to affirm certain eternal truths,” including the individual’s “right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force,” and “that the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role.” In contrast to SDS longing for a more regulated economy, the Sharon Statement vaunted the market economy as “the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government,” stressing its abundance and the harm to the nation that comes from the market’s over-restriction. Most importantly, in contrast to SDS’s foreign-policy equivocation, the Sharon Statement emphasized “that the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with” communism. Even Buckley’s column in National Review announcing the creation of the group was full of optimism. He predicted that the new group would “influence the political future of this country, as why should it not, considering that its membership is young, intelligent, articulate and determined, its principles enduring.”

That all seems right to me — but one thing that Hilu omits is the similarities between the two youthful movements, as embodied in their founding documents. We rightly think of the 1960s as a time of radicalism and upheaval; but we tend to only attribute that radicalism to the student radicals of the New Left. It’s worth remembering that, in their time, William F. Buckley and the other young conservatives who were involved in the Sharon Statement were radicals, too. Tom Hayden, the author of the Port Huron Statement, noticed as much: In an essay published a year after the Sharon Statement — and a year prior to Port Huron — Hayden noted that “during the past year, conservative students have come to life.”

These were not the staid patricians of the Old Right: “What is new about the new conservatives is their militant mood, their appearance on picket lines,” Hayden wrote. “The new conservatives are not disinterested kids who maintain the status quo by political immobility, nor are they politically concerned but completely inactive sideliners. They form a bloc. They are unashamed, bold, and articulately enamored of certain doctrines: the sovereignty of individual self-interest; extremely limited government; a free-market economy; victory over, rather than coexistence with, the Communists.”

Indeed, Buckley explicitly identified with the “radical conservatives — “who are ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity” — in National Reviews 1955 mission statement. He described his political project as a “counter-revolution”; not a moderate, incrementalist accommodation to the existing state of things, but an “overturning” of “the revised view of society” brought about by the progressive revolution.

Nowhere has that progressive revolution been more potent than the courts — and nowhere was the judicial revolution more potent and corrosive than Roe. In a 1974 column calling for an overturning of Roe, Buckley described how the ruling, and the underlying philosophy that drove it, were corroding republican self-government: “The public, under the tutelage of its moral and intellectual leaders — is being trained, as regards the Supreme Court of the United States when it is interpreting the Constitution, to accept its rulings as if rendered ex cathedra, on questions of faith and morals,” he wrote. Thus, he argued, an end to Roe “would deliver the republic from a presumptuous ethical-political tribunal which has come to treat the Constitution with something like an author’s possessiveness.”

That, in the final analysis, is the significance of Friday’s decision: It is nothing less than a counter-revolution, the seeds of which were planted by our predecessors. It is, in a fundamental sense, a kind of radicalism. But it is a welcome radicalism — a radicalism that seeks to restore, rather than to destroy; to renew rather than begin anew. It is rooted in the ethos of the Sharon Statement, and in a belief in the “capability,” as Lincoln put it, “of a people to govern themselves.”

Politics & Policy

Abortion: The Federal Question

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Today’s Bloomberg Opinion column* asks whether a federal ban on abortion should be on the pro-life legislative agenda now that Roe is gone–and if so, how high on that agenda it should be.

For opponents of abortion, there are weighty considerations on both sides.

Let’s start with the case for federal action. The 14th Amendment says that states must extend the equal protection of the laws to all persons and gives Congress the power of enforcement. The pro-life movement has argued that allowing states to deny unborn children protection against homicide breaks that promise. (The Republican platform has long said that the amendment’s protections should apply to the unborn.) Our country has for many decades acted on the conviction that basic human rights require federal protection. . . .

* (Not to be confused with yesterday’s post-Dobbs column.)

Elections

Will Dobbs Matter in November?

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Supreme Court Police officers guard a barrier between anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights protesters outside the court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Dobbs decision is enormously consequential, and it seems like a very big political deal right at the moment—but will it matter much as an election issue in November?

I have my doubts about that.

Let’s make like McKinsey nerds and put it in a two-by-two matrix.

Scenario A: Red city, red state: These voters will be largely satisfied with Dobbs and in many cases positively ecstatic about it, as they should be. But they were probably already going to be pretty energized in November: Democratic president, Democrat-controlled Congress, high inflation and high gasoline prices, failed “return to normalcy,” etc. They don’t need another reason to turn out, but that probably isn’t going to make much difference in any House or Senate race, thanks in part to the very successful Republican gerrymandering that so often deprives Republican voters of the opportunity to crush a Democrat with any real hope.

Scenario B: Blue city, blue state: They’re going to rage like Jeremiah on Twitter, but there isn’t going to be any change, or even any real prospect of change, to their state abortion laws—if anything, those laws may be even more liberal in the post-Roe era—and they may be a little depressed by losing on the abortion issue, which is an offputtingly quasi-spiritual . . . thing . . . for Democrats. If there were any Republicans around for these blue-state urbanites to take out their frustrations on, they might, but most of the voters in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc., would have to drive an hour to find a Republican to kick in the shins. I’m sure they’d love to go to Idaho to vote against Mike Crapo, but they’ll have to take out their anger on Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, if anybody. And they might do that.

Scenario C: Red city, blue state: These do not exist. Not really. The largest U.S. cities with Republican mayors right now are in red states: Jacksonville, Fort Worth, and Oklahoma City. The biggest blue-state city with a Republican mayor is Fresno. (No, mayors don’t tell the whole story, but this is a quick-and-dirty indicator.) I suppose Colorado Springs might just about qualify. In any case, beleaguered Republicans in Fresno probably are not going to be more beleaguered this November than they were last November, or any less.

Scenario D: Blue city, red state: This is the possibly interesting case. Blue cities in red states are some of the nicest places in the country to live: Austin, Salt Lake City, etc. The Democrats who live in them feel a little like Republican college professors—as though they are operating in occupied territory. (I know that Republican college professors think this way because I have heard so from both of them.) They get excited, write checks, etc.—they are the only reason anybody has ever heard of Robert Francis O’Rourke. Red-state Republican incumbents or Republican contenders in districts that have a substantial piece of some of the bluer cities or suburbs might actually have to think about how they are going to talk about this issue a little bit. That might conceivably matter in races such as Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, which includes a big piece of Cincinnati (where Democrats swept eight of nine city council seats in 2021), a seat currently held by Steve Chabot (R.). That race currently is rated as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report, which gives the district a Partisan Voting Index of D+2. Chabot, a longtime incumbent, won only 51.8 percent of the vote in 2020. Some of the other Cook toss-ups are similar, e.g., Cassy Garcia will need some help from exurban San Antonio and the Democrat-leaning city of Laredo in her bid to unseat incumbent Henry Cuellar in Texas’s 28th (D+5).

So, my sense is that the voters most likely to be motivated in some meaningful way by Dobbs are Democrats in Republican states, which might make a difference in a few races in closely divided electorates.

Democrats will try to make the midterms a national referendum on abortion rights—because they sure as hell don’t want to talk about the price of a gallon of gas—but I do not think that is likely to succeed. One of the weirder aspects of the clabbered, sour partisanship of our time is that the most hardcore partisans are more inclined to punish their own party for losing than to punish the other party for winning. And Democrats are going to go into the November election feeling like losers because of the economy and because of Dobbs.

That being the case, if Dobbs is to have any real near-term political impact, it may be in encouraging dissatisfied Democrats to push out Joe Biden in 2024, assuming he lasts that long. That’s where simmering blue-state Democrat rage could have some real effect.

Law & the Courts

The Dobbs Dissent Is Sadly Clarifying

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Pro-life activists celebrate outside the Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning Roe v Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The Dobbs dissent coauthored by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan is so laden with appeals to emotion that extracting the legal arguments can be challenging. For example, the introduction is mostly about abortion-related policy outcomes that the dissenting justices fear and detest. Rather than simply outline their argument, the dissenters invite the reader to fear and detest those policies along with them.

Nevertheless, the dissent’s bottom line is clear: “Roe and Casey were correct.” This is a bit surprising, since the reasoning in Roe has a poor reputation even among some progressives, including the late Justice Ginsburg. I expected the dissenters to focus mainly on the importance of following precedent, perhaps with their own justifications for the right to an abortion mixed in. In attempting to directly defend Roe, however, they re-affirm for me not only how indefensible that particular decision was, but also how imperious the whole “living Constitution” project continues to be.

The dissenters first say that Roe “struck a balance” between women’s autonomy and the protection of fetal life. Leave aside that this “balance” allowed abortions in almost all cases in which women desired them. The more important question is why there should be any balance imposed by judges at all. The alleged virtue of Roe’s “balance” is question-begging — it pre-supposes a Constitutional right to abortion when that is the whole issue under debate.

As for where that right comes from, the dissent acknowledges that the ratifiers in 1868 did not understand the Fourteenth Amendment to confer any right to abortion. But that’s okay, the dissent says, because there are “new societal understandings” that have developed since then, and the ratifiers would have wanted the judiciary to recognize new rights based on these new understandings.

That sounds like a conveniently broad license for judges! Now, it is one thing to say, as the Kavanaugh concurrence appropriately does, that original principles should be applied to new situations – for example, the Fourth Amendment protects computer files from unreasonable searches and seizures, even though computer files did not exist at the founding. It is quite another thing to claim that judges may interpret Constitutional provisions in a way that directly conflicts with the understanding of the ratifiers — who were, after all, well aware of abortion yet never made any intimation that the Fourteenth Amendment speaks to it.

Since their interpretive method seems awfully subjective, the dissenters try to assure us it “does not mean anything goes.” They proceed to cite further platitudes about “fundamental commitments” and “the long sweep of our history” that are supposedly constraining, but it’s obvious that those sentiments mean whatever judges want them to mean. They are little more than the vehicle by which judges insert the values of the lawyer class into the Constitution.

Of course, I did not expect any of the three dissenters to sign on to an opinion that fully returns the abortion issue to the states. I did hope, however, that their dissent would repudiate some of the excesses of their activist predecessors. They could have grounded their dissent primarily in stare decisis, allowing that Roe was not the decision they would have written. Instead, they double down on the purest living constitutionalism, affirming that judges need only incant phrases such as “sphere of liberty” in order to create new Constitutional principles. Sadly, that is what we must expect from the Court’s progressive justices going forward. May they remain in the minority as long as possible.

Politics & Policy

Re: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

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In response to Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An Address to Young Conservatives

I very much enjoyed Nate Hochman’s ISI speech to young conservatives.  As a much older conservative (born the same year as National Review itself), I was thinking the other day about whether things are worse now than when I was growing up.  I’m not sure that the world is a worse place now than it was 60 years ago, or that the country is. There were bad world actors (starting with the Soviet Union) back then, too, and we had our domestic challenges (like Jim Crow and the Weather Underground) then and now as well.

But it seems to me that what is most disheartening is that our elites have gotten so much worse.  They weren’t perfect then either, of course, and our universities and media have always been liberal, but still: They — and not just universities and the mainstream media but also one of our major political parties and more and more corporate executives — have become more uniformly and extremely Left.

So thank goodness for counter-institutions like ISI and National Review, and all the young conservatives there and elsewhere, that are fighting to resist and change that.

Law & the Courts

Our Conservative Constitution

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Neutrally applying the Constitution, as its provisions were originally understood, will tend to produce conservative rather than liberal results. That’s my claim over at Bloomberg Opinion, and it’s one that explains, I argue, a lot about our constitutional politics.

What I mean is not that the Constitution requires the implementation of every sentence of the latest Republican platform or blocks everything in the Democratic one. The Constitution, on any reasonable reading, is clearly compatible with a lot of liberal political victories. But it also, much of the time, pushes in a direction that contemporary conservatives find more congenial than liberals. . . .

Elections

What If Trump Jumps Early?

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Former President Donald Trump speaks during his rally in Selma, N.C., April 9, 2022. (Erin Siegal McIntyre/Reuters)

There have been reports on and off about Trump announcing early, and you have to wonder if the strength that DeSantis is showing might be pushing him further in that direction.

The advantage for Trump of an early announcement is that it would presumably cause almost all the candidates who have said they won’t run if he does to say they are out, an immediate show of strength. And it might solidify his polling some and get fence-sitting Republicans who now say they don’t want him to run to throw up their hands: “Well, I wish he didn’t do it, but now that he has, I’m with him.”

But there’s a risk of getting in early and just sitting out there and not generating the accustomed excitement and interest. Indeed, if there’s a growing sense of Trump exhaustion in the party, having him a declared presidential candidate for basically a year and half before the primaries begin might enhance it, not diminish it. An early Trump endorsement might also help the candidates who could run regardless — DeSantis, Cotton, Pence, et al. — calculate their moves. If you’re DeSantis, say, you can see what Trump’s strength as a declared candidate appears to be well before having to make the momentous call about jumping in yourself.

So, I think on net an early announcement might be bad for Trump’s interests. But at the end of the day, timing probably won’t matter much — the party will either be ready to move on in 2024, or not.

Politics & Policy

Roe: Thinking Generationally

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Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as the Court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

What, to the 24-year-old, is the death of Roe v. Wade? My colleagues have described the momentousness of yesterday’s ruling from almost every angle imaginable: Its significance for pro-lifers, for the conservative movement, for a proper and just understanding of the Constitution, and — of course — for the unborn. I shared the transcript of a speech I gave last night to my fellow young conservatives on The Corner earlier today, where I tried to speak to what it should mean to those of us who share our elders’ commitment to the sanctity of unborn life, and their joy at the Supreme Court’s decision, but who have only just recently come of political age: 

In this specific political context, we should also be considering the momentousness of today as conservatives; and for many of the young people here, as those who will—in one way or another—be inheriting the levers of power in the institutional conservative movement…this is a moment to be proud of our history. To be proud to be in this room—not because we, as young people here, have contributed all that much to the cause of life or the defense of the Constitution, but because we are lucky enough to have the chance to carry on the work begun by our forefathers. The ones who toiled, often thanklessly; often in silence; often in the face of ridicule and censure in mainstream institutions; for nearly half a century, and for decades and decades when the possibility of overturning Roe was unthinkable

I just want to add a couple quick thoughts to this sentiment. It’s a difficult question that I’ve been reckoning with over the past 24 hours: How should young conservatives think about Roe’s demise? Can we really feel “proud” of the fruit of a labor that was not, primarily, ours? Certainly, we can and should feel joy — joy for the millions of unborn lives who will see the light of day, and for a nation whose “fundamental law,” as the editors wrote yesterday, “will no longer effectively treat unborn children as categorically excluded from the most basic protection that law can provide.” 

But in the headiness of victory, I also can’t help but feel a certain amount of imposter’s syndrome. For me, this is particularly potent, given that I was not raised conservative, and only recently arrived in the movement. This is the conservative movement’s victory, yes, but it does not feel like it is mine. I wasn’t there for the decades of grassroots organizing, letter-writing, door-knocking, and prayer. I did not share in the many heartbreaks and losses that were sustained and endured on the uneven path to yesterday’s victory. 

The conclusion that I’ve arrived at, then, is that there is one appropriate emotion for a young conservative to feel in this moment: gratitude. With gratitude, comes humility; with humility, comes a moment for reflection. Today, I reflect on the nameless generations who toiled in silence before me, in the darkness of the decades when overturning Roe seemed a Sisyphean task — beyond the reach of any rational political imagination. I cannot ever hope to understand what yesterday’s decision means to them. But in acknowledging my own limited capacity to understand this moment, I can begin to recognize the magnitude of the debt they are owed.

Politics & Policy

Abortion and Legislative Precedent

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Williamson’s Second Law: “When Democrats are in power, they act like they’ll never be out of power, and when Republicans are out of power, they act like they’ll never be in.”

I wonder whether it has occurred to Democrats hysterically demanding that Congress “codify” a national right to abortion through legislation are simply pre-establishing congressional authority over the issue — about seven months before a Republican majority is likely to be sworn in.

If a Democratic Congress has the authority to mandate abortion rights in every state (and I do not believe that it legitimately does) in June of 2022, then the same legal theory that establishes that power surely must invest in a Republican Congress the power to enact a national prohibition of abortion in January 2023.

Be careful what you ask for, Democrats.

Media

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An Address to Young Conservatives

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The American flag flies at half staff over the U.S. Capitol to honor the late Supreme Court associate justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, September 25, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The following is transcribed from a speech I delivered to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s class of Collegiate Network Journalism Fellows. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I don’t know if any of you heard yet, but there was a pretty significant decision over at the Supreme Court today. 

It’s a big deal. I don’t have to tell any of you that. But I think it’s worth pausing and taking a moment to think about why today’s decision matters.

Obviously, it matters first and foremost, because it’s the first step in building an America where abortion is unthinkable. And that matters because abortion matters — not just because it is the taking of the most vulnerable and defenseless kind of innocent human life, but because, as one prominent conservative thinker wrote in 1997, “abortion is today the bloody crossroads of American politics.” 

This is what that conservative thinker wrote at the time:

It is where judicial liberation (from the Constitution), sexual liberation (from traditional mores) and women’s liberation (from natural distinctions) come together. It is the focal point for liberalism’s simultaneous assault on self-government, morals and nature. So, challenging the judicially imposed regime of abortion-on-demand is key to a conservative reformation in politics, in morals, and in beliefs.

The man who wrote that was Bill Kristol. The Bill Kristol of 1997 was very different from the Bill Kristol we know today. 

But Kristol, circa 1997, was right. And I’m not here, primarily, to talk to you about abortion, or even jurisprudence and the courts in general. But I think today’s ruling is important for our purposes insofar as it allows us to take a moment to reflect on our position in this particular moment in history, as Americans, and as people who love this country. We are, in this room, occupants of the small sliver of the nation’s ruling class—and especially the elite media—who still see something beautiful and noble and redeeming in our history, our traditions and our founding principles.

In this specific political context, we should also be considering the momentousness of today as conservatives; and for many of the young people here, as those who will—in one way or another—be inheriting the levers of power in the institutional conservative movement.

There have been any number of criticisms of the conservative movement in recent years, some of which I’m personally sympathetic to. But this is a moment to be proud of our history. To be proud to be in this room—not because we, as young people here, have contributed all that much to the cause of life or the defense of the Constitution, but because we are lucky enough to have the chance to carry on the work begun by our forefathers. The ones who toiled, often thanklessly; often in silence; often in the face of ridicule and censure in mainstream institutions; for nearly half a century, and for decades and decades when the possibility of overturning Roe was unthinkable

And they did so not just because they believed in the sanctity of unborn life—although they did—but because they loved this country. And they understood what an insult it was to the Constitution—and to the men who wrote it—to say that it condoned, let alone mandated, such a profound moral evil as abortion.

All that is to say: We stand on the shoulders of giants. Particularly at storied institutions like ISI. 

The luminaries of the conservative intellectual tradition in America, many of whom were writers or journalists or essayists of some kind or another, were all young people once, too. Many of them sat at conferences like these, although they were probably listening to much better speeches. But remember, ISI was one of the original institutions in movement conservatism. And pretty much every single one of your intellectual heroes has probably been associated with it, in one way or another.

Now, I’m young, too — probably not much older than you all. I graduated college in May of last year. And young people have a tendency to think they know better than their elders. I’m certainly guilty of this. Young conservatives have traditionally been slightly less prone to this impulse than our progressive counterparts, because naturally, we are seeking to conserve something. It’s a fundamental tenet of the conservative disposition to be deferential to the wisdom of the past. And insofar as that wisdom is embodied in and passed down by previous generations, we’re generally a little less likely to be partial to the “don’t trust anyone under 30” impulse than many of our peers.

But all of you have probably experienced that there’s a certain kind of radical ethos in our generation of conservatives, particularly in the intellectual circles that we all, to one degree or another, are a part of. You’ve all heard of “Conservatism, Inc.” There’s a tendency to look around us—to see how bad things are in so many areas—and to dismiss the work of our predecessors, and the institutions they built.

I get it. Sometimes, I feel it too.

But I want to caution against taking that impulse too far—particularly for those of us in this room, who will be part of the class of writers, thinkers, reporters, and journalists who really set the tone for what it means to be a conservative in the 21st century. Elite conservatism has always had an insular, familial feel. Everyone here knows each other: We tend to come up through the same pipeline from campus chapters of the College Republicans or ISI to the right wing of the beltway political establishment. We’re mentored by the same group of figures in the same handful of conservative institutions.

What that means is that you all are in a position to be far more powerful than our counterparts on the left side of the aisle. 

The average left-wing writer, or journalist, or intellectual swims in a gigantic sea of mainstream elite American life. Being left-wing doesn’t make you special at a university or at the New York Times or the Washington Post. It doesn’t make you special in the federal bureaucracy, or Silicon Valley, or corporate HR departments, or the military brass, for that matter. They’re the norm.

We are the exception to the norm. The kind of young conservative who wants to go into writing, or reporting, or policy work, or any other kind of intellectual pursuit, is a very small and specific demographic. But the conservative movement infrastructure that our predecessors built is very powerful. And what that means is that we are situated to be in positions of unusual influence at a very early age.

We should take that seriously. It’s a cliché to say that great power comes with great responsibility, but it’s also true. 

Take my example. I just turned 24—on my 24th birthday, I wrote a 4500-word cover story for the New York Times. Next week, I’m writing a piece for The Atlantic. Next year, I’m probably writing a book. 

Some of my left-wing critics—and I seem to have more of them every day—would say that that’s because I’m a product of the so-called “conservative welfare state.” In other words, they’d argue that conservative writers and intellectuals, by virtue of their scarceness, but also because of the enormous amount of resources that they have access to, are a kind of affirmative action story.

Now, in one sense, that’s ridiculous. I don’t have to recite to you all of the mediocre writers and thinkers on the Left who were elevated to positions of influence and power because they had the right opinions, or to point out that the echo chamber in mainstream progressive institutions means that many of our public intellectuals rarely have to actually substantively defend their positions, which often leads to weak and lazy arguments. 

But in another sense, there’s something to this point. I’m happy to admit that I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the fact that I believe things that are unusual in elite intellectual life, and that I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for the generosity and support of institutions like ISI. 

So all of us here are, in the real sense of the word, privileged. Not because of skin color or gender identity or any of the other ways that term is wielded today, but because we are participants in something important and unique. We’re inheritors of a noble tradition, built by some of the most brilliant and passionate men and women that our country has known. 

Don’t just burn it all down. Be part of building something. Not “building a new world,” like the utopians on the Left claim to want to do, but rebuilding and renewing the America that the men and women who came before us fought for.

What does that mean for our specific wing of the conservative movement? As writers and journalists, I actually think we are uniquely situated to do the kind of work I’m talking about. Maybe some of that is self-flattery, but with the exception of the universities, I can’t think of an institution in American life where there is more of a need for conservative voices than the media.

Now of course, there is a sprawling ecosystem of conservative media already. We’re all in it. But the problem is that we are speaking, almost exclusively, to an audience that already agrees with us. That’s important, too, in and of itself. As I said earlier, one of the most significant roles we play as conservative writers is engaging with, and ultimately helping to define, the conversation about what it means to be a conservative today. And that question is more uncertain than it has been in decades. So the debates that we’re all involved in are important.

But we have yet to really break what people describe as “the New York Times effect.” The New York Times effect, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, describes the power that major left-wing papers like the Times wield in defining the terms of our national political discourse. It’s sort of like the Pareto principle—a small fraction of the population controlling a large portion of the wealth, in which 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of causes. A good example of this came last year, when powerful payment processors like Visa and Mastercard barred pornography platforms from using their services. Conservative faith-based groups had been working to go after platforms like PornHub, which were complicit in sex trafficking and child porn, for years. But it wasn’t until a big piece from Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, and then another long, critical piece in the BBC, that corporations actually felt pressured to move.

All of that is to say: So much of conservative media—and conservative politics in general—is reactive. We spend our time reacting or responding to the Left. But that’s an inherently defensive posture. It makes it very difficult to win when you’re playing on the other side’s terms.

Part of all this is simply a question of power. The constellation of mainstream, credentialed, “reputable” news outlets is very powerful. In the short term, there isn’t much we can do about that.

But part of it is a choice. Conservatives have adopted this defensive crouch by spending our time writing op-ed after op-ed about how biased the media is, about what this or that progressive pundit or Democratic politician said, and so on. And all of that is important, to a degree. I certainly do plenty of it myself. Part of our job is to hold people accountable—especially the ones that the mainstream media doesn’t

But if we do that at the exclusion of other kinds of writing and journalism, we’ll never actually be able to set the terms of debate. And we’ll always be playing on a field where the referees work for our opponents.

The good news is, we don’t have to do that. The thing about the mainstream media’s bias is that they’re only really interested in uncovering half of the stories that are worth telling—and frankly, a lot of the stories they do tell aren’t particularly interesting or worthwhile.

What that means is that there is a cornucopia of stories for all of you to go out and find. Stories that matter, but that aren’t being told. All you have to do is go find them. 

Let me give you a couple of examples—one from me, and one from a young friend of mine who I think exemplifies what young conservative journalists should be aiming to do better than almost anyone I know. 

The first story: This January, Georgetown Law suspended their new professor, Ilya Shapiro, for an innocuous tweet he posted criticizing the Biden administration’s use of race and gender to select their new Supreme Court justice. It was an absurd, cowardly move, done not because Shapiro actually violated any of the school’s anti-discrimination policies—actually, he was defending the principle of colorblind equality under the law—but because the administration was scared of the student activists who were calling for his head.

When it happened, everyone on our side of the aisle—and even a couple principled progressive voices—called it a miscarriage of justice. But the story was Shapiro’s tweet. That, of course, was how it was reported in the mainstream media, and as such, that was the subject of debate. Even conservatives were backed into the defensive crouch of having to defend the content of the tweet, rather than being able to shift the conversation towards the Georgetown Law administration’s misconduct. 

But I found out, via social media and some friends at Georgetown Law, that the Georgetown Black Law Students Association, which was the group leading the charge against Shapiro, was planning to hold a sit-in at the school, demanding all of the things that activists like this usually demand—not just that Shapiro be fired, but that there be more funding for diversity, equity and inclusion, more departments with teachers who shared their ideological commitments, and so on. So I went to Georgetown Law to see it for myself. I ended up getting foiled by security, but I found an Instagram livestream of the event and screen-recorded it on my iPhone while sitting in a nearby coffee shop.

And it was—and I put this mildly—insane. The activists weren’t just demanding that Shapiro be fired, but that Georgetown Law’s entire originalism institute be shut down. On top of that, they were demanding reparations in the form of “free food” and a designated “place to cry” to remedy the emotional trauma inflicted on them by the tweet. But the most damning thing of all was the fact that Bill Treanor, the dean of Georgetown Law who showed up to personally address the students, was completely deferential to them. No pushback, not a word of criticism. Just “yes, of course, you’re absolutely right.” Even when they demanded free food—“we’ll get that for you right away.”

When I broke this story, it went viral. But more importantly, it completely changed the terms of the debate. Not because of anything particularly special about me or my coverage of the story, but because it allowed people to see the actual dynamic that had led to Shapiro’s ouster. The conversation shifted from debating Shapiro’s tweet to debating the school’s response. And in the face of what everyone could see about the dynamic between Dean Treanor and these student radicals, it became very, very difficult to defend what happened. The school dragged its feet, but it eventually felt the need to offer Shapiro his job back. (He didn’t accept, but that’s another story).

Now the other example, which I actually think is far more impressive than my coverage of the Shapiro story, is my friend Aaron Sibarium. Aaron is 26 years old — not much older than you or me. But what I did with the Shapiro story, he has done many times over, and to far greater effect. Most recently, he was there covering Princeton’s persecution of their conservative professor, Joshua Katz. Before that, he broke the story about the CDC, and a number of state governments, using racial preferences in the dispensation of life-saving Covid treatments — a scoop that none other than Donald Trump has taken to talking about at his rallies. Before that, he was covering how critical race theory has infiltrated everything from the medical bureaucracy to the American Bar Association. He’s been a tireless chronicler of how left-wing cultural ideology, particularly as it pertains to race, gender and sexuality, is corrupting American institutions. He recently started a podcast, called Institutionalized, with a friend. It’s excellent. You should all be listening to it.

These stories are defining the narrative. They shift the terms of the conversation. All of a sudden, the conversation about “wokeness” isn’t just old Boomer hosts on right-wing talk radio complaining about some college kid using weird pronouns or something; it’s actually about material, substantive examples of how this ideology, and the power structure that’s driving it, is affecting Americans and America. It’s not just rhetorical anymore; we’re not just talking about politically correct speech-policing. When the Small Business Association is denying restaurants pandemic relief based on their skin color and gender, or when the CDC is denying at-risk white men life-saving antivirals, that’s real. It’s much more difficult to wave away as “right-wing hysteria.” And a whole lot of that is because of Aaron.

That’s all at the age of 26, for him. That’s what I’m trying to hammer home. You all can be doing that. And you should be. Because it’s important. There’s a massive opportunity here. It just takes a little bit of creativity, and a willingness to actually go out and find the stories that no one else is paying attention to.

The last thing I should just say on this topic is to those of you who came into this world hoping to mostly do opinion, like I initially did. First of all, the best journalism advice that I ever received, from one of the movement’s elder statesmen, is, “No one actually really cares what you have to say.” At least at first, why should anyone listen to kids like us? Why should they take our opinions seriously? Before you give your take on the news of the day, or on some big philosophical debate within conservatism, you have to prove that you’re worth listening to. And the best way to do that—and to make your mark—is to actually find the stories that no one else is paying attention to. So the best way in is to actually tell other people’s stories, or at the very least, to incorporate them into the stories that you want to tell. 

The best way to learn how to write is to actually do real reporting. To write about real people, and real situations, rather than just to pontificate. And a lot of times, as I mentioned, that doesn’t have to be straight reporting. The best pieces I’ve ever written are “reported opinion,” where I’m making the case for something specifically, but using and relaying real stories rather than merely relying on my own thoughts. And that’s made me immeasurably better as a writer, even when I am writing something that could be described as mostly opinion.

To take an example—this long New York Times essay I just wrote. It was very much an opinion piece. But I wrote it very differently than I probably would have if they had asked me to write it two years ago. I was making the case that the decline of organized religion has substantially altered the priorities and worldview of the conservative movement—that’s an opinion. But I was describing it in the same way that I would report on the Ilya Shapiro situation at Georgetown. I was making an opinionated case, on the one hand, but was reporting, in a very real sense, on the other. And all of the best opinion pieces—the ones that really drive at something important—are, in a very real sense, reporting. 

So whatever you’re actually interested in, from straight reporting and journalism to policy writing and work to anything else in this profession, look for good stories to tell.

It’s an odd time to be a young person in America. And it’s doubly as odd a time to be a young conservative. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of young conservatives are entering politics with a sense that America is under siege. Even as we log major wins at the Supreme Court—gun rights yesterday, abortion today—it can feel like the country is slipping away from us. The kind of work that Aaron does, for example, chronicling the Left’s march through our institutions—that’s happening. And those of us who have spent time on college campuses recently, in particular, know exactly how serious it is. 

That’s disturbing, to me. No amount of tax cuts, or gun-rights expansions, or even Supreme Court victories seem to have been able to stem that tide. In a sense, I think, that’s because conservatives have been too narrow in our conception of politics. We thought that if we elected Republican majorities enough times, in enough places, they would save us from all of this.

Well, they haven’t. 

And none of that is to contradict what I said at the outset of this speech, about a deep and abiding gratitude for the conservative movement. The only reason we’re here at all is because of the work of past generations. And today, of all days—just hours after the reversal of one of the greatest affronts to justice and human dignity in Supreme Court history—we should remember that.

But just as it fell to our predecessors to answer the great challenge of Communism abroad, it falls to us today to answer the great challenge of a militant and profoundly anti-American progressivism at home. And since the defining battle lines today are in the culture, it will be in the cultural institutions where this fight is won or lost. That’s not to say debates about government or economics aren’t important—of course they are. But the work we’re doing, in the media and the intellectual sphere, has taken on a particular importance in the contemporary context. 

As I said earlier, all of us in this room, even those of us in the earliest stages of our careers, are in a unique position to actually have an effect in American politics and culture. It’s one of the greatest gifts that we’ve been given by those who came before us—including the men and women who built ISI. Our obligation, to them, is to fight for our way of life today, as they fought for it in generations past.

Thank you.

Single-Serving Libertarianism

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To be a Democrat in 2022 is to insist that “bodily autonomy” means that you may kill your children but you may not hit a Juul.

Politics & Policy

Susan Collins, Abortion Demagogue

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Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine) listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

On the day after Roe was overturned, in Maine — the only place in America where Republican Senator Susan Collins actually represents anyone — lo and behold that abortion remains legal and widely available.

Under state law, there are generally no restrictions on it to the point of “viability,” which Maine deems to be about 24 weeks, well into the second trimester (and beyond the point at which many Americans, who disfavor abortion yet believe it should be safe, legal, and rare, would permit it in most cases). Even beyond viability, the law provides exceptions, particularly, of course, if the mother’s life is in danger. There is a parental-consent restriction for minors, but it is riven with exceptions that make it more like a speed bump. And Maine requires private insurance and Medicaid to cover abortions.

Contrary to what Senator Collins would have you believe, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have not outlawed abortion. To the contrary, they joined a ruling (in Dobbs) that gives the senator’s constituents complete control over what kind of abortion regulations they wish to adopt democratically.

Now that we are better positioned to notice such things, how curious that Collins is having a tantrum over Roe when the people she represents actually want abortion restrictions of the kind the Dobbs makes accessible. The Roe regime was so barbaric that it gave Democrats cover to oppose any restriction on abortion, up until the moment of delivery; most people in Maine, however, do not favor abortion-on-demand, at any gestational point and for any reason.

Democrats are lying about Roe, and Collins is helping them. Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and rest of the Dobbs majority have not outlawed abortion. They have re-empowered the people of Maine to control abortion. Ironic that the Court has more faith in the people who elected Susan Collins than Susan Collins does.

Politics & Policy

The ‘Oh, but Price Controls Did Work’ Claim

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Statists are demanding that the government impose price controls, now that reckless spending and money creation have brought on rapidly increasing prices. One of the claims we’re hearing is that we should ignore all that stuff about economic theory and look at history for instances when price controls “worked.”

Don’t buy it. Economics professor William Anderson has a sharp refutation here.

Referring to Harold Meyerson’s hymn to price controls during World War II, Anderson writes, “Yet that tells us absolutely nothing, for he fails to mention the shortages, official rationing of goods, and the general economic misery that Americans faced during those conflicts, when the economy, geared to total war, vacuumed up vast numbers of resources, leaving Americans on the home front to scramble for the leftovers and, with much difficulty, scratch out a living.”

To that, I’d add the economic waste of having to hire a small army of price-control officials to enforce the system. Leftists never see the opportunity cost of creating “jobs” that produce no value.

Read the whole thing.

Law & the Courts

Abortion and the Restoration of Democracy

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My latest column in the New York Post on how Roe made our current political moment:

Roe was a legal mistake that played a large role in driving our national politics crazy. Now the democratic process gets to decide what happens to abortion. Before Roe, nearly every state in the Union banned or restricted abortion, but the trend was toward allowing abortion in more situations. That trend, here and abroad, tracked the liberalizing of divorce laws and other features of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Roe stopped all that in its tracks, high-handedly sweeping off the books the laws of nearly every state at once. (New York’s law, the nation’s most permissive, allowed abortions up to 24 weeks.) The Supreme Court’s job is to read the law, not write it. Nothing in the Constitution mentions abortion even indirectly, and nobody before the 1970s thought the Constitution made abortion legal. . . .

All the energy that usually goes into politics and lawmaking in Congress and state legislatures was forced into an all-or-nothing national battle for the Supreme Court that lasted decades. When presidential candidates such as Donald Trump or Bill Clinton misbehaved, their supporters insisted that the stakes of every presidential election were too high for dissent, because Roe was always on the national ballot. That isn’t healthy. In America, the people are supposed to make the law. Now they can.

Politics & Policy

How Bad Is the Rewrite of Title IX Sexual-Harassment Rules?

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Very bad, argues former Department of Education lawyer Hans Bader in this Liberty Unyielding post. 

The revision is an attack on freedom of speech that opens the door for campus administrators to bring complaints against anyone who says things that upset the militants.

Bader observes that the language is based on a concept of “harassment” that one appeals court has already declared unconstitutional.

Bader writes, “The Biden administration’s proposed definition of sexual harassment disregards the Supreme Court’s Davis decision. It adopts a definition of harassment that is even broader in some respects than the broad harassment definition used in workplaces, which the Supreme Court rejected as impractical for schools, because of the fact that ‘schools are unlike’ the workplace, and because students ‘regularly interact in a manner that would be unacceptable’ among adult workers.”

It sounds as though these rules wouldn’t survive a legal challenge, but that’s true of most of what Biden has been up to.

Law & the Courts

Roe and Casey Are Overruled’

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Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the United States Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case overturning Roe v. Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Michael Mccoy/Reuters)

In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe and Casey. Rich and the other Editors hosts discuss this momentous day and the various legal and political angles of the decision.

Rich reminds listeners of just how many people were involved over the last almost-five decades in bringing about this victory. From voters to activists to Donald Trump, the editors make the point that this victory would not have been possible without the continued perseverance — in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds — of those fighting to bring about a culture of life in the United States. 

There has been major Democratic outcry over the decision, and the editors consider how the decision will affect November’s midterm elections. MBD brings up some important points concerning what cultural shifts we may see moving forward, specifically from the emerging populist class. In terms of individual states, Phil discusses what actions governors and legislators might take. 

Come for the Dobbs discussion, but make sure to stay for the gun-case decision talk at the end of the show. Listen below or on your podcast player of choice. 

 

NR Webathon

Celebrate the End of Roe with National Review

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Cover of the November 29, 2021, Issue of National Review (National Review)

The day that we long fought for, and that we long hoped would come, has finally arrived. With its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the constitutional and moral abomination that ended tens of millions of innocent human lives, and that for decades warped and corrupted our political order. The journey to its overturning was not without heartbreak and setback. It proceeded along contingencies and ironies that seem almost impossible to line up with the reality of triumph for the lives of the unborn. It is a day we owe to countless pro-lifers, many of whom were happy to toil in obscurity and even anonymity in the hope that, one day, their efforts would bear fruit. Today, at long last, they have.

National Review has long been with and among them, supporting and heralding the pro-life cause. As a culmination of these efforts, we dedicated an entire issue, timed to coincide with the oral arguments in the Dobbs case last year, to explaining from every conceivable angle why Roe could not stand. That issue is now available here to all readers. We delighted in seeing pro-lifers on the steps of the Court proudly bearing copies of it. We urged the Court to defy the pressure campaign that began once a draft version of a possible decision leaked (an act itself likely part of that campaign). And today, we are celebrating with the many other people and organizations who made the end of Roe possible.

Our home page is packed with this coverage. See our own editorial marking the removal of the “stain” of Roe. See Alexandra DeSanctis, one of the youngest and also most fervent and articulate voices for life in the public sphere, discerning what comes next. See Dan McLaughlin’s double-header celebration of the decision itself and of the political actors who made it possible. And so much more. This is National Review at its best. But for the sake of our readers and for the causes we all hold dear, we strive to be at our best every day. So if you’re enjoying what you see today, sign up for an NRPlus subscription to get fuller access to our offerings. We are today offering 60 percent off subscriptions to NRPlus, a deal — even a steal — by any reckoning. Take advantage of it, and ensure that you don’t miss any of our coverage on this or any other pressing topic. And celebrate with us on this historic occasion.

Economy & Business

If You Really Want to Understand Inflation …

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John Maynard Keynes (right) speaks with Harry Dexter White, assistant secretary of the Treasury, in Savannah, Ga., March 8, 1946. (International Monetary Fund/Wikimedia Commons)

The nation abounds in chatter about inflation these days, most of it badly informed if not deliberately misleading.

But there is some sound writing, and I recommend this AIER essay by  Peter Calcagno and Edward Lopez. They argue that if you want to understand the problem, “look to Harvey Road, not Pennsylvania Avenue.” The reference is to the residence of John Maynard Keynes, whose prescription for government economic management steered us wrong in the 1930s and still bedevils us.

Keynes liked inflation as a means for the state to extract wealth from producers for its purposes and liked it especially because, he wrote, “not one man in a thousand can see what is going on.” Unlike taxation, which people see and object to, deficit spending and subsequent money creation through a central bank takes place covertly and is easily blamed on others.

Calcagno and Lopez praise the analysis of James Buchanan and Richard Wagner in their book Democracy in Deficit, which gets at the root of the problem, namely the insatiable appetite of our politicians for money to spend on all the things they like (mostly because they help get them re-elected).

Here is Calcagno and Lopez’s conclusion: “Taking Buchanan and Wagner’s Democracy in Deficit seriously means putting the focus on political morality and institutional rules. These rules restrain discretion in monetary policy and limit both the scope and scale of fiscal policy. AIER’s Alex Salter and others are right that we need Milton Friedman back now more than ever. But even more so, we need Buchanan and Wagner to take front and center in the political and economic discussion.”

Education

Universities Lament Roe’s Overturning

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Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as the Court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade prompted the presidents of many colleges and universities throughout the country to send messages to their students, lamenting the decision and affirming their commitment to “reproductive rights.”

Here are some of the most egregious statements from universities in response, coming from public statements or emails obtained by National Review.

In an email to students, University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman told Wolverines, “I strongly support access to abortion services, and I will do everything in my power as president to ensure we continue to provide this critically important care.”

Coleman recently convened an abortion-access task force, one of the functions of which will be to provide resources for out-of-state abortions for students and patients who come to the university’s hospital system. The co-chair of the task force, Dr. Lisa Harris, once served as chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan.

Down the road, President Samuel Stanley of Michigan State University felt the need to “emphatically state that reproductive health care is a basic human right.” Though he said that he respects “the diversity of opinions Spartans hold on the issue of elective abortion,” he stated that the university has “a responsibility to stay true to our core values and work to improve the health and life outcomes of all those we educate, train and serve.”

“To that end,” he continued, “MSU will continue to stand for sustainable health for all. In the face of a ruling that jeopardizes many people’s health, we will — within the boundaries of the law — continue to educate the next generation of clinicians and health professionals in reproductive health and also support access to equitable, high-quality, affordable and safe health care for all.”

Out west, University of California system president Michael Drake, though he recognized the different opinions students have on abortion, wrote, “The Court’s decision is antithetical to the University of California’s mission and values. We strongly support allowing individuals to access evidence-based health care services and to make decisions about their own care in consultation with their medical team.”

Colleges within the system riffed on Drake’s statement. UCLA chancellor Gene Block echoed Drake’s sentiments and told students that “UCLA currently provides students with access to comprehensive reproductive health services and will continue to offer these services.”

UC-Davis chancellor Gary May wrote that “we will continue to move forward together to protect the human rights for people making health care decisions.”

In fairness, the messages were not all bad. University of Iowa president Barbara Wilson assured students in an email that her personal views would remain private, encouraging Hawkeyes to “help ensure that the University of Iowa is a place for open and respectful discussion of differences” and implored them to “find constructive ways to have your voice heard by participating vigorously in our democratic process.”

Additionally, multiple Catholic schools rejoiced at the decision. President John Garvey of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., praised the rejection of “the unholy idea that there is a constitutional right to kill unborn children” and encouraged students to “build a civilization of love” in a post-Roe world. Ave Maria University in Florida tweeted a picture of students at the annual March for Life with the caption, “Ave stands for life.”

Unfortunately, the responses that implored students to engage in civil debate or rejoiced at the end of Roe v. Wade appeared to be the exception. Those who lament the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health make pro-life students feel unwelcome at their institutions. Many of them recognize the diverse opinions on campus then proceed to take a side in the debate. Here are publicly funded schools advocating for a specific side of a political issue, something unbecoming of supposed places of learning and free thought.

Law & the Courts

How Assisted Suicide Euthanized Roe v. Wade

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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Molly Riley/Reuters)

Back in the ’90s, the assisted-suicide movement tried to convince the Supreme Court to impose a Roe v. Wade–style decision for their cause that would circumvent the democratic process by imposing doctor-hastened death as a constitutional right. (Full disclosure: I wrote and filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court against that effort as a lawyer for the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force, now the Patients Rights Council.) The effort failed, with the Supreme Court ruling 9–0 in Glucksberg v. Washington (1997) that there is no right to be found in the United States Constitution to assisted suicide.

Now, in a turn that could not have been anticipated at the time, Glucksberg provided the primary precedent for striking down Roe as bad constitutional law! From Dobbs v. Jackson (my emphasis):

We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Washington v. Glucksberg. . .

More:

In deciding whether a right falls into either of these categories, the Court has long asked whether the right is “deeply rooted in [our] history and tradition” and whether it is essential to our Nation’s “scheme of ordered liberty.” . . . Glucksberg . . . And in conducting this inquiry, we have engaged in a careful analysis of the history of the right at issue. . . .

Thus, in Glucksberg, which held that the Due Process Clause does not confer a right to assisted suicide, the Court surveyed more than 700 years of “Anglo-American common law tradition,” 521 U. S., at 711, and made clear that a fundamental right must be “objectively, deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.

Analyzing the history of the unenumerated claim of a right to abortion, the majority found it wholly wanting.

As the Court cautioned in Glucksberg, “[w]e must . . . exercise the utmost care whenever we are asked to break new ground in this field, lest the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause be subtly transformed into the policy preferences of the Members of this Court.” 521 U.S., at 720 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Although a pre-quickening abortion was not itself considered homicide, it does not follow that abortion was permissible at common law—much less that abortion was a legal right. Cf. Glucksberg, 521 U.S., at 713 (removal of “common law’s harsh sanctions did not represent an acceptance of suicide”).

And kaboom!

The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973. The Court in Roe could have said of abortion exactly what Glucksberg said of assisted suicide: “Attitudes toward [abortion] have changed since Bracton, but our laws have consistently condemned, and continue to prohibit, [that practice].” 521 U.S., at 719.

So, in a hubristic attempt to force assisted suicide on the nation in the same way abortion had been, euthanasia activists instead laid the groundwork for Roe’s obliteration. The irony is so delicious I can’t stop smiling.

Politics & Policy

Women Deserve Better Than Abortion

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Pro-life and pro-choice activists demonstrate outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Much of the backlash to today’s ruling overturning Roe and Casey has been entirely predictable. Progressives are angry that the Court is no longer enforcing a regime of abortion on demand across the entire country, and abortion supporters appear unwilling or unprepared to make the case for laws that effect their preferred status quo.

But the overwhelming theme of the outrage thus far has centered around one theme: What will become of women? Many say it cynically, others say it sincerely. It’s the foremost argument for abortion, an argument that the Court itself made in Casey: Women need this. Women can’t be free, women can’t be equal to men, women can’t be fully human without abortion.

There is much to be said about how deeply flawed this view is, but on a day like today, I return to the wisdom of an essay by Frederica Mathewes-Green published here at NR in 2016. Mathewes-Green was an avowed pro-abortion feminist who became a passionate pro-life activist, and the way she explains her conversion is instructive. I encourage you to read the entire essay, but here’s a crucial passage that gets to the heart of why abortion is deeply anti-feminist and anti-woman:

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child.

If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed that the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.” Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals.

That image has always haunted me. Surely every one of us, even those who support abortion, would recognize the horror of such a situation if we witnessed it in the animal kingdom. Why have we decided as a society to celebrate the fact that women feel compelled to kill their own children in order to save themselves? How could we believe this is any sort of solution? It isn’t. And in the debates that are sure to come in a post-Roe America, pro-lifers should be ready to say so.

Law & the Courts

Pro-Life State Laws Poised to Take Effect in the Wake of Dobbs

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Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as the Court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, all eyes will turn to the states, which now have the chance to set their own abortion policies for the first time in nearly half a century. There are plenty of battleground purple states where lawmakers have yet to pass abortion laws for a post-Roe era, but here’s the state of play in states that already have laws in place to protect unborn human beings.

More than a dozen states — Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming — already have laws on the books that are slated to take effect when Roe is overturned, protecting unborn children from the moment of conception, with varying levels of exceptions for cases of rape and incest or when a mother’s life is in danger.

In most of these states, the laws could take effect as soon as today, although in some cases a state official is required to certify them in order for them to take effect in the wake of Roe being overturned. In a handful of these states, the pro-life protections could take effect within five days or up to 30 days after the ruling overturning Roe.

A few other states — including Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — have pro-life laws on the books pre-dating Roe, all of which have become enforceable in the wake of Roe having been overruled. In some of these states, abortion supporters have already begun efforts to invalidate the policies under the state constitution. In at least one, Wisconsin, pro-abortion state officials have pledged not to enforce the law.

Finally, in Georgia, Ohio, and South Carolina, there are heartbeat bills slated to take effect when Roe is overturned, protecting unborn children after their heartbeats can be detected, which usually takes place around six weeks into pregnancy. It’s worth noting that these states and some mentioned above are entangled in litigation from abortion supporters, and state officials will need to ask courts to handle those lawsuits in light of today’s ruling in order to allow their pro-life laws to take effect.

Apart from these states, there are a handful of abortion-friendly states with policies allowing abortion until birth for any reason, providing state Medicaid funding for abortions, or declaring abortion a fundamental right. They include California, Illinois, a number of states in the northeast, and a few others. The remaining states are battlegrounds, where post-Roe law has yet to be established, and now is the time for pro-lifers in those states to push harder than ever for laws that respect the dignity of every human life.

Politics & Policy

Settle Down, Democrats

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) gestures outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case overturning Roe v. Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Nobody should be expected to take seriously any theory of constitutional interpretation that holds that abortion — found nowhere in the Constitution — is an untouchable, bedrock right, while the right to keep and bear arms — explicitly enshrined in the Bill of Rights — somehow is not.

All Dobbs means to the pro-abortion camp is that you savages will have to make your case to the voters.

Democracy and all that.

Law & the Courts

What the Dobbs Majority Said at Their Senate Hearings

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett reacts during her confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 14, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

There are critics out in force today trying to portray the five justices in the Dobbs majority — plus Chief Justice John Roberts, who was a sixth vote for upholding the Mississippi law and partially overturning the Roe/Casey framework — as having misled the Senate in their confirmation hearings. I did a deep dive into this question last month.

The most egregious claim now being circulated is that Amy Coney Barrett testified that Roe and Casey were “so well settled that no political actors and no people seriously push for their overruling.” CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere:

Celeste Headlee:

This is flatly false. Barrett was discussing the academic concept of “super-precedents” — a term used by scholars, but with no actual meaning in the courts — which she defined as cases that are “so well settled that no political actors and no people seriously push for their overruling.” Cases such as Marbury v. Madison or Brown v. Board of Education may still have their critics, but there is no chance of their ever being seriously challenged in court, much less overturned. When asked by Amy Klobuchar whether Roe and Casey fit that definition, however, Barrett explicitly said they did not:

This happened less than two years ago in a nationally televised hearing at which Barrett’s views on the precedential value of Roe were the most newsworthy issue. The truth can be found easily on video with a simple Google search. And yet, they can’t help themselves.

Law & the Courts

Sasse on Dobbs: ‘Pro-Life Movement’s Work Has Just Begun’

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Sen. Ben Sasse, R., Neb., speaks during a subcomittee meeting at the Capitol in Washington D.C., April 27, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Reuters)

“America’s work of becoming a more perfect Union is never over, but today — by righting a constitutional wrong — the Supreme Court took a historic step forward,” Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse said in a statement on Friday. “Roe’s days are over, but the pro-life movement’s work has just begun.” 

More from Sasse:

This issue will now be debated in the 50 states, and a 330,000,000-person, continental nation will work through this debate in a way that’s healthier than Roe’s one-size-fits-all, Washington-centrism. The pro-life movement is pro-baby, pro-mom, and pro-science. This cause is rooted in love and now is the time to show it. We can’t call this legal victory the end, because our movement has never been primarily about lawsuits and laws – it’s about love and compassion. So let’s celebrate today’s victory and get to work. Let’s support and love all pregnant women. Let’s come alongside them and give the support they need. Let’s support babies regardless of the situations they face and build communities around them that will love and cherish them.

“On a separate note, let’s celebrate the fact that our institutions held. In spite of the doxxing of their homes, violent threats and intimidation, and even a plot to assassinate Justice Kavanaugh, the Court held strong. There is no room for political violence in America – none. Mob violence is un-American, period. President Biden needs to personally and forcefully condemn violence and threats against Supreme Court Justices. Our institutions still work. Let’s keep faith in them.”

Law & the Courts

NR Tweets the Dobbs Decision

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Politics & Policy

McConnell: Dobbs Decision ‘Courageous and Correct’ 

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 14, 2022. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most consequential individuals who helped bring about today’s historic Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to regulate and ban abortion, issued the following statement:

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Dobbs is courageous and correct. This is an historic victory for the Constitution and for the most vulnerable in our society.

For 50 years, states have been unable to enact even modest protections for unborn children. More than 90% of Europe restricts abortion on demand after 15 weeks, but every state in America has been forced to allow it more than a month past that, after a baby can feel pain, yawn, stretch, and suck his or her thumb. Judicial activists declared that every state had to handle abortion like China and North Korea and no state could handle it like France or Germany.

Not anymore. Now the American people get their voice back

The Court has corrected a terrible legal and moral error, like when Brown v. Board overruled Plessy v. Ferguson. The Justices applied the Constitution. They carefully weighed the complex factors regarding precedent. The Court overturned mistaken rulings that even liberals have long admitted were incoherent, restoring the separation of powers. I commend the Court for its impartiality in the face of attempted intimidation.

Democrats’ disgraceful attacks on the Court have echoed Democrats’ outrage at Brown v. Board in 1954. Today’s Democrats are jaw-droppingly extreme on abortion. 97% of Washington Democrats support legislation that would effectively require nine months of abortion on demand until the moment of birth. Only 19% of Americans share this radical view but 97% of Democrats in Congress embrace it. They would rather attack our institutions than let the American people enact the reasonable protections they want.

Millions of Americans have spent half a century praying, marching, and working toward today’s historic victories for the rule of law and for innocent life. I have been proud to stand with them throughout our long journey and I share their joy today.

Culture

Love the Mothers

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Pro-life activists celebrate outside the Supreme Court as the court rules in Dobbs v Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

With today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade by way of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, please consider what comes next. Celebrate, cry, and be merry. But while you do these things, consider your nearest crisis pregnancy center or church and their outreach to young mothers. 

There is a vicious smear bandied about by pro-abortion activists, saying that pro-lifers are only protective of children while in the womb and that we somehow lose any interest in supporting or bettering the lives of children and their moms after birth. In the days and years to come, please embarrass these assertions through your giving to and volunteerism with organizations caring for mothers and children for decades. 

The legal matter of abortion at the federal level is achieved. We must reaffirm our devotion to showing our love for life and one another.

Law & the Courts

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Unexpected Legacy

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at a conference in Long Beach, Calif., October 26, 2010. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Considering how overturning Roe v. Wade looked impossible, or extraordinarily unlikely, when Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, to many pro-lifers, today seems nothing short of miraculous.

Democrats who support abortion rights will point a lot of fingers in the weeks to come. They will blame Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell for refusing to hold confirmation hearings when Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. They probably ought to assign some blame to Harry Reid for eliminating the filibuster for certain judicial nominees, which led to Republicans eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. While his vote wasn’t decisive in either case, they will probably set aside some ire for Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia for voting to confirm Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. They may well fume about the eleven Senate Democrats who voted to confirm Justice Clarence Thomas back in 1991.

But there’s one other figure whose decisions inadvertently but inevitably led to today’s decision: the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Back in 2013, President Barack Obama met with Ginsburg, with hopes that the then-80-year-old, two-time cancer patient could be persuaded to retire:

Mr. Obama had asked his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, to set up the lunch so he could build a closer rapport with the justiceaccording to two people briefed on the conversation. Treading cautiously, he did not directly bring up the subject of retirement to Justice Ginsburg, at 80 the Supreme Court’s oldest member and a two-time cancer patient.

He did, however, raise the looming 2014 midterm elections and how Democrats might lose control of the Senate. Implicit in that conversation was the concern motivating his lunch invitation — the possibility that if the Senate flipped, he would lose a chance to appoint a younger, liberal judge who could hold on to the seat for decades.

Senator Patrick Leahy reportedly had a similar conversation with Ginsburg, hoping to nudge her to retire, to ensure she would be replaced by a like-minded justice. At the time, Democrats effectively had 55 seats — 53 Democrats and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King. It was extremely likely that Obama could have gotten Garland or another philosophically aligned nominee confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate in 2013 or 2014.

But Ginsburg just wasn’t interested in retiring. After Ginsburg died in 2020, and President Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate replaced her with Amy Coney Barrett, many liberals realized Ginsburg had made a catastrophic mistake. By remaining on the court for another six or seven years, Ginsburg had denied Democrats their last, best chance to keep a majority on the Court that viewed the law the way she did.

Today’s decision was 6–3, but in his concurrence, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed significantly less enthusiastic about overturning Roe. It is more than fair to wonder if Roberts would have concurred with Thomas, Alito, and the rest if he was the deciding vote, and the other justices split four to four. In that scenario, it is likely Roberts would have attempted to find some narrowly tailored middle path.

In other words, Roe v. Wade probably wouldn’t have been overturned if Obama’s lunch with Ginsburg had convinced her to retire.

Politics & Policy

Elections Have Consequences

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Pro-life demonstrators celebrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case overturning Roe v. Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Republicans have won only eight of the last 14 presidential elections (and two of those presidents did not win the popular vote), so the presidency has seemed like more or less a toss-up since the debacle of the Lyndon Johnson presidency. However, luck simply fell in favor of the Republicans; from the election of Richard Nixon through to the start of the Bill Clinton era, Republicans have seated ten consecutive justices. (There were four by Nixon, one by Ford, three by Reagan, and two by George H. W. Bush. Jimmy Carter is the only president in my lifetime who was not able to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Donald Trump served only one term, yet got three seats.)

The point is, as a matter of Supreme Court dynamics, Roe never should have lasted as long as it did. Even if you date the rise of the pro-life movement to the election of Ronald Reagan as president (just a few years after he had signed a very permissive abortion law as governor of California), Republican presidents (all of whom campaigned as pro-life stalwarts) have chosen ten of the last 14 justices (not counting Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has yet to be seated) and five of the last seven. There should have been a majority to overturn Roe many years ago.

The only reason Roe lasted this long was that Republican presidents seated many justices who turned out to be either reliably liberal or at least liberal on the things that are most important to liberals. (The last Democrat-picked justice who could be described as conservative was Byron White, whom John F. Kennedy nominated.) For this reason, Democrats started to think, not without good reason, that the Supreme Court was functionally a moderately liberal super-legislature that would almost always cut through the failure of Democrats to persuade voters to make the changes they wanted at the times they wanted them and come through with the proper liberal decision (albeit not in Bush v. Gore).

But that isn’t the way the Supreme Court is supposed to work. Far from being institutionally liberal, it’s supposed to be institutionally conservative, i.e., it’s supposed to apply the Constitution. We appear to be at the start of a bold new era in which the Left of this country will have to recognize the Constitution and work from there.

Politics & Policy

New York State of Death

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference after a shooting at a subway station in Brooklyn, April 12, 2022. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

“My friends, the sky is on the verge of falling.” That was how New York governor Kathy Hochul went about her abortion-fest multiple bill signings a week or so ago at Cooper Union in New York. She talked about “the persistent assault” on women’s abortion rights.

“Not here. Not now. Not ever.”

“The women of New York will never be subjugated to government-mandated pregnancies. Because that is what will ensue if Roe v. Wade is overturned.”

“New York has always been a beacon for those yearning to be free. And I want the world to hear — loud and clear — that will not change.”

“This is the United States of America, where freedom and liberty are supposed to mean something.”

Abortion rights are the “rock upon which we were founded.”

I have Hochul’s abortion extravaganza in mind because during a brief trip between Philadelphia and New York and back, I noticed a night of rage planned for New York, gathering in Washington Square Park the night of the Dobbs decision — tonight. Forgive me the harsh language, but this is what some of us encounter and more when we pray outside abortion clinics in New York.

Immediately upon seeing that, I thought of the reckless, overwrought rhetoric of the governor of New York. As someone who has been among those who have needed police protection to pray, I expect more sense from someone in public office.

There has been bipartisan outrage over January 6, and rightfully so. How about people who support abortion with wild enthusiasm insist that anyone who does violence in the name of abortion will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law?

For about a year now, there have been protests of prayer outside abortion clinics fairly consistently here in New York. They call us clinic harassers for standing across the street from Planned Parenthood in Manhattan praying for an end to abortion. Now, the Jane’s Revenge domestic-terrorism threats raise the question of what our monthly prayer vigils are going to look like after the Dobbs decision. Besides the evil of the violence, two little points: When you attack a pregnancy center or a church, you are attacking people and places that help women. Many of the women’s care centers run on pennies. You’d be amazed at how they often make sure a little goes a long way. And in New York State, abortions will not end with the end of Roe. In fact, I am not alone in expecting that we will have more abortions, not less. Our governor wants us to be an abortion destination, and she’s as extreme as they come on abortion — as witnessed by her recent abortion-bills-signing extravaganza.

While she recently engaged in cheerleading for abortion, her dishonest tag line was: “A Safe Harbor for All.” Not if you’re unborn. And with the recent violence against pro-life care centers and post-Dobbs violence planned, evidently it’s not a safe harbor for people who work to make sure women have the practical choice to not have an abortion.

Please, Democrats, insist on no additional violence in the name of abortion. Surely we can have a debate about abortion in America. Some of us have been asking for this for 49 years.