June 26, 2022
How did it come to this?
How did we get to a world in which Roe v. Wade could crumble like this?
“The fact that we knew long in advance the fate of Roe didn’t cushion the blow. Women’s fundamental rights are under threat across the country in a way that would have been difficult to imagine just a few years ago. It’s important to remember these laws are not “abortion bans” as such; they are not the “moderate, European-style compromise laws” we sometimes hear about: no, these new laws criminalize women’s reproductive health and direct the police power of the state against them in cruel and perverse ways. It is likely the states will also employ all the powers of surveillance and control made possible by modern technology, even chasing after those who try to get abortions in other states like some new Fugitive Slave Law. What we are witnessing is the creation of a new form of federalized tyranny, in some ways much more dire and ideologically-informed than the dangers and hypocrisies of pre-Roe America. Even if you have personal misgivings about abortion or favor trimester limitations, you must admit that these new laws women seriously imperil women’s ability to exist as free and equal members of our society. To quote the dissent, “it consigns women to second-class citizenship.”
We should be concerned for all of our liberties, now. In his concurrence, Justice Thomas writes, “…we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” This is a threat to the entire architecture of what’s been called “the Rights Revolution,” the post-war process through which we acquired the civil rights many of us once took for granted. It once felt like an impossibility that these fortresses would fall, but now the Right is moving against all of them in rapid succession, dazzling and demoralizing their defenders with the swiftness and completeness of their advances. How could this be possible? The attackers were highly daring, opportunistic, and motivated while the defenders grew slack because they were such imposing edifices they never imagined they could be assaulted head on.
American liberalism and its vehicle the Democratic Party has been organized around the notion that its hegemony was contestable in detail, but not in its fundamental propositions: progress was a fait accompli and eventually, on all issues, conservatives would just have to adjust themselves to it, fight rear-guard actions or accept the pluralism of compromise. This attitude appeared to be confirmed by reality because of tactical and strategic compromises the Right had to adopt from to time, but the core idea was always to slowly drive a stake through the heart of the liberal consensus,—or “to break the clock of the New Deal, to repeal the 20th century,” to quote Murray Rothbard. …”
Look in the rearview mirror.
In the broad sweep of American history, the world that John Ganz describes here, which is now visibly crumbling, was a product of several key twists and turns in the 20th century:
The triumph of “progressive liberalism” in the Democratic Party – Modern American liberalism was born in the 1910s and 1920s and was swept into power in the Democratic Party in the 1930s. The party of the South and West and “white supremacy” was hijacked by Northern liberals who had traditionally been Republicans during the Great Depression. The tug of war went on inside the party until the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement in the JFK and LBJ years. Yes, the country was liberal before that in the sense that what is now conservative liberalism was the hegemonic ideology, but the old Victorian era liberalism was focused on free market economics and securing a limited set of political rights.
The triumph of modernism as an aesthetic sensibility in American culture – Modernism also arrived on American shores from Western Europe in the 1910s and 1920s. It swiftly became the dominant sensibility of American elites. This shift in sensibility and culture is now taken for granted. Its assumptions are like the water in which we swim. It is invisible to us. We take for granted that the Self is put up on a pedestal in our culture. We take for granted that an expanding laundry list of -isms and -phobias are synonymous with morality. The notion that “racism” and “sexism” are deeply immoral makes sense to us, but would have sounded strange to Americans in the 19th century. Just as the Victorian era as a distinct cultural epoch of American history came to an end around World War I, the Modern era too is also coming to an end. Once upon a time, progressive liberals saw themselves as repudiating the 19th century. They are unable to imagine a world in which they have similarly become stale and are repudiated in turn.
The triumph of the liberal “mainstream” – The earliest stirrings of the “mainstream” as we know it can be traced backed to the 1910s and 1920s when modern liberalism emerged, but it did not really become hegemonic until the 1940s and 1950s. It reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s in the Walter Cronkite era and has been slowly dissolving ever since. Normal for progressive liberals is a handful of media corporations based in coastal metros dominating the country and commanding trust and respect. This, of course, now has been exposed as a passing phase. The “mainstream” has steadily receded back toward the coasts over the past thirty years where it now exists as a bubble.
New York’s metropolitan hegemony – In the early 20th century, New York emerged as America’s dominant metropole. It became the American equivalent of Paris in France. Previously, there hadn’t been a dominant national culture centered on one major city. Boston was sort of like the first among equals in the 19th century. In the 20th century, it became normal in the age of the mass media for a tiny handful of cultural elites based in New York and Los Angeles to create culture and beam out to flyover country where it was passively digested. New York’s cultural dominance is now over. Sure, Saturday Night Live continues to broadcast live from New York, but you know it doesn’t land like it used to.
The liberal consensus – In the 20th century, the Great Hushing lowered the temperature of American politics. Turnout used to be enormous in American elections. A series of reforms which began in the Progressive Era lowered voter turnout and professionalized American politics. Elections became dry and boring and removed from the masses. Normal American politics became elections like Clinton v. Dole in 1996. PMCs dominated both political parties. This is the way it was until Trump’s victory in 2016 which changed the demographic composition of the Republican Party. The professional class ceased to be dominant element in the GOP and its power eroded even further in the 2018 and 2020 elections.
Jewish Power – As everyone here knows, the old WASP elite which was the ruling class in the Victorian era lost power to the Jews in the early 20th century. White Nationalists are correct to emphasize the connection between Jewish control of the mass media and negative cultural changes as well as how Jewish billionaires finance and control both parties. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic though that the power of The Synagogue is waning. The demise of Roe v. Wade is one indicator of this. The decline of the ADL under Jonathan Greenblatt is another. Jews who are used to getting their way are howling with outrage. Censorship is a last ditch effort to control our discourse.
The Great Depression and World War II – Close students of American history are aware of the fact that the country tends to drift toward reaction after short lived bursts of war induced egalitarianism. America retreated from liberalism through the Early Republic and Antebellum eras. Then came the War Between the States and Reconstruction. This was followed by the Redemption movement in the South and the Jim Crow era. This was punctuated by World War II and the Cold War. In the wake of the Cold War, which had the effect of preserving the liberal consensus by elevating foreign policy above domestic issues, the lid which had been kept on American politics was removed. The culture war exploded and has been gaining steam ever since. The war in Ukraine hasn’t even been a speed bump in slowing it down.
As the older generations whose lives were shaped by World War II and the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement retire and die off, the country is reverting toward what has been its historical norm. The same thing happened when the Civil War generation died off around the turn of the 20th century. Reconstruction was buried and the country moved on.
Returning to our original question … how did this come to pass?
A large part of the answer is the sheer passage of time. If you look back through history, a theme you will notice is that we tend to go through phases. The Enlightenment, for example, was a phase. Then we had Romanticism in the 19th century in which emotion and sentiment, not reason, was exalted. This ended in the catastrophe of the World Wars. It was followed by the cynical, self-absorbed Modern era. Now, that era is giving up the ghost. The moral arc of history bends toward reaction. Each century tends to be an overreaction to the previous one. At some point, we should expect the pendulum to swing away from our culture of unbridled narcissism. Maybe that is where we are at?
The forces of nature and time destroy everything in this world. That’s the fate of American liberalism too. It is looking more than a little bit eroded these days.
Where abortion is legal the father of the unborn child had no legal right to either compel a woman to obtain an abortion or prevent a woman from obtaining an abortion despite being legally and financially responsible for the child if born. The mother of the child had sole legal power to determine whether the child would live or die. The father had no power to decide whether his child would live or die. Now that some states have banned abortion the mother and father are equal there. All decision making as to whether they will engage in relations that could produce a child must be made prior to or at the time of engaging in relations and both have the same ability to decide to either do so; not do so; or use some method of contraceptive.
However, the narrative proposes that without unrestricted access to abortion, women are once again subordinate to men when in actuality it was completely opposite. It is the availability of abortion that subordinates the reproductive choices of men to women.
This evil system completely inverts everything. It is truly demonic.
One of the characteristics of liberalism I’ve noticed, is it’s acting as if history didn’t happen before they came along. Everything before then was primitive barbarism. The fact that most humans thru history did not think like liberals, goes over their heads.. it’s going to be fun watching this aging ideology become Thought “old fashioned, “backward”, etc.
As “more cool or hip” lifestyles, ironically more traditional, replace them. I’m just waiting for some young person to tell some overweight ugly feminist to “do the work” about why girls, are girls, boys are boys “ heh
“Women’s fundamental rights are under threat across the country”
Exactly at what point did people begin to believe that infanticide was a FUNDAMENTAL right?
I am a freedom and liberty oriented person…But I believe our freedoms and liberties are an extension of natural law. The concept of a right being “fundamental* is derived from the idea that laws are ordained by our creator, who in turn created our human nature. You don’t have to even believe in the “creator” to accept that our natures are governed by values that are largely innate.
IT IS NOT NATURAL FOR WOMEN TO WANT TO KILL THEIR CHILDREN. In fact, it’s is one of the most antithetical to nature acts that one can conceive of. The left speaks of “social constructs”. Abortion being thought of as some sort of “fundamental right” is precisely what a social construct IS. End of conversation.
In order for the left to create this upside down bizarre order, they had to amplify one of the least desirable aspects of human nature, which is selfishness. I concede that there is an internal struggle in the human ego between selfishness and sacrifice. To conceive and parent a child requires sacrifice over selfishness. Most of this internal struggle is resolved by puberty and adulthood. A society of well-nurtured human beings will produce adults who choose sacrifice over selfishness.
In other words, I’m not going to argue that selfishness isn’t a natural human trait, but it is the trait that all other aspects of our nature is, and should be, at odds with. This is ultimately the reason we have religion and spirituality. To help us resolve this struggle and GROW.
We live in a stunted society that is failing to launch. Abortion is one of the primary vectors that caused this. Good riddance.
Hyperbole, even sometimes an absurd or extreme form of it (‘a threat to our democracy’), can be seen as a kind of straw man argumentation — its use for this purpose is very common.
Excellent analysis and insight regarding long term cyclical movements. As the great American genius Frank Herbert wrote, “every cycle is a reaction to the preceding cycle.”
I find the euphemisms used by the left to be simply astonishing. Abortions are considered as women’s reproductive health. Truly a satanic inversion.
T. S. Eliot once said that there are no lost causes because there are no permanent victories,
The advantage of this framing is that it puts 1914-1945 in the rearview mirror. The World Wars and the associated political movements represented the catastrophic ending of the era of Romantic era in ultranationalism & imperialism.
Also, it feels like the zeitgeist changed in 2014 w/ BLM/Ferguson & Ukraine etc. End of the 20th century and start of the 21st w/ the crisis of the Modern era & a disintegrating social fabric. We need an alt-history of the 20th history w/ its origin story “anti-fascist” mythos and to look for signs of a new coming era in aesthetics & ethics etc.