Pence: Yes, of course I still want to see Roe v. Wade overturned

Is this news? CNN and Mediaite are treating it as news. It’d be major, major news if his answer was anything other than this, for sure.

As it is, the angle seems to be that a guy who’s now the country’s most prominent devoutly Christian politician, who got elected vice president by campaigning on overturning Roe … hasn’t changed his mind about a lifelong core belief since assuming office.

What are the odds?

Per the last post about Schumer, I think this is real news in one sense. The only way Democrats get a total victory out of borking Kavanaugh rather than a temporary or even pyrrhic one is by turning up the volume on abortion to 11 during the confirmation process. It’s not enough to beat him because of the work he did for Ken Starr or for Bush or whomever. If you do that, Trump might turn around and nominate Barrett — and she’d stand a good chance of getting confirmed in a Senate that’s a bit more Republican in January. To frighten him into going more moderate with his replacement for Kavanaugh, liberals need to use the next few months to show Trump that no hardcore pro-lifer can be confirmed lest it ignite a ferocious backlash.

Pence’s soundbite here, although perfectly anodyne, helps a bit by giving Dems something to remind voters that the tippy-top ranks of the Trump administration have every intention of overturning Roe. The White House can’t guarantee it; Pence himself is quick to note that what he wants and what Brett Kavanaugh might do on the bench are two different things. But the more lefties remind casual voters that Trump is hoping for this outcome and doing everything in his power to engineer it, the better their chances of mobilizing that backlash. This is attack-ad material. And maybe more importantly, something to lay before Collins and Murkowski and remind them what they’re voting for by voting for Kavanaugh.

Ross Douthat is already preparing for the post-Kavanaugh era — not among Democrats but among social conservatives. It will be wrenching one way or another, he notes. Either Kavanaugh will come through, vote to overturn Roe, and politics will go topsy-turvy or … he won’t. And what if he doesn’t?

I think abortion opponents will have that trust vindicated; I think a Roberts-Kavanaugh court, however restrained in other ways, will overrule Casey and allow the states to legislate freely on abortion once again. But this is not the view of many savvy court-watchers, many legal conservatives included, who expect at most a gradual widening of the room for second-trimester regulation. And if they’re right and I’m wrong, if another Republican appointee writes another opinion that limits but still preserves a constitutional right to terminate unborn human lives, then the party unity that I expect around the Kavanaugh nomination will never be repeated, rebellions and disillusionment will divide the right’s legal coalition, and pro-life voters will never trust the legal establishment’s promises again.

The groundswell for Barrett, unusual in a nomination process, was a foretaste of what the rebellions would look like.

We’ll see. Douthat acknowledged on Twitter this morning that social cons are usually cheap dates for their party. There may be a rebellion if Kavanaugh (or Roberts) chokes completely and votes to keep the Roe/Casey framework wholly intact, but I think a Roe-style temporal framework that preserves the right to abortion but scales it way back to the earliest stages of pregnancy is something most social conservatives would talk themselves into accepting. Particularly with their hero Trump, the master salesman, pitching them that it’s the political win of the century, a night-and-day improvement over the current abortion-mill regime, and so on. There’ll be no wider political rebellion; Douthat noted himself that social cons are forever running into the problem that they have nowhere else to go politically.

But he’s right that if Kavanaugh chokes, it’ll be the end of trusting the Federalist Society legal culture in which Kavanaugh was incubated. That group exists ultimately to produce Supreme Court justices who will. not. choke. like Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter — three Republican appointees — did in Casey. (Fun fact: The other two votes in the five-vote Casey majority, Blackmun and Stevens, were also Republican appointees. The lone Democratic appointee on the Court at the time, Byron White, dissented. Eight Republicans couldn’t get it done!) If a Republican majority midwifed by Don McGahn and Leonard Leo can’t seal the deal, the group’s credibility is cooked. Who knows what comes after that.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022