This story from NPR contains a genuine horror story, one that is full of tragedy, loss, and a sickening suppression of individual human dignity. A woman who suffered a medical disaster 18 weeks into a wanted pregnancy was refused the procedure that would remove an unviable fetus and forced to live through a series of nightmares, day by day, because doctors feared taking action due to state laws in Texas. Where a procedure might have been preformed safely and quickly, allowing this couple who wanted to become parents to grieve this loss, the woman was instead forced to suffer endless pains and humiliations, and to demonstrate she was on the brink of death before doctors would act.
As one doctor put it, what she suffered was nothing short of “torture.” But as every doctor involved knew, under Texas law anyone—anyone—could sue them for any role they played in an abortion, even if that abortion was performed under the most terrible and dire circumstances. That fear caused them to actively participate in the torture of a patient they were sworn to protect.
This dreadful story is only one example of how, even before Roe v. Wade was destroyed by a radical Supreme Court, Republicans were carving out a “country within a country,” one based on fear and oppression. One where the powerful reign with impunity. A nation where teachers are censored and accurate education is outlawed. A nation where racism and all forms of sexism aren’t just legal, but required. One where the power of the state is used to interfere in the most intimate and personal decisions.
While everyone waits for the first shots in the Second Civil War, for many red states, that war has already been won. Now they’re eager to bring the results to the rest of the nation.
If Republicans capture even one chamber of Congress in the fall, expect the most nightmarish version of anti-abortion, anti-gay, and anti-immigrant legislation present in any of the red states to become the baseline for national law. Expect more horror stories like the one in Texas and the 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio. Expect federal laws outlawing teaching large swathes of our own history and mandating a thick whitewash on what remains. Expect gay marriage to become a memory and trans persecution to become a mandate.
If you think that even a minority of Democrats in the Senate will be enough to filibuster a new Republican majority, f**k that. The filibuster will not survive 30 minutes should Republicans seat even 51 under their banner. Don’t worry. Mitch McConnell will have a statement for why past Senate precedent doesn’t apply in this situation, and every paper will print it. It was, after all, just a quaint tradition.
If you’re counting on a veto pen to hold Republicans in check, it’s certainly true that Biden will press back at every step. But don’t count on that to be the last word. Republicans will attach this legislation to the most vital “must pass” bills. Want to adjust the debt limit to prevent default? Or fund the military? Or keep programs like SNAP going? Every one of these bills is going to come with a rider about abortion, or “critical race theory,” or the “threat of men in girl’s sports.” Then Republicans are going to absolutely refuse to pass any of this stuff unless they’re given everything they want. They will play this game of chicken all day, and love it.
In all these instances, Republicans have an inherent strategic advantage: They want the federal government to fail. Democrats want Social Security checks to keep rolling out. They want the military to get paid, for kids to keep getting fed, and seniors to keep getting their medicine. Republicans want all those things broken, because when they break, Republicans can use it as evidence of how the system doesn’t work, so we need to do something else—like give all the power back to the states and gut the functionality of the federal government. Except for mandating things like no abortion, no trans rights, and no interracial marriage. Of course. In a party based on the idea that the federal government doesn’t work, there is every possible incentive to see that it can’t.
When we think about the how of the Civil War, that first one, it’s mainly the armies and the battles that come to mind. But fighting and winning that war required a transformation in American government. The system that we have today is not, in large part, the government as conceived by the founders, but the system created by Lincoln, out of necessity, to hold a nation together in the face of division. The strong central government, and even the idea that people think of themselves as Americans, rather than as citizens of individual states … that’s Lincoln’s creation.
It’s Lincoln’s America that Republicans now are fixed on destroying.
As CNN reports, many red states have successfully used the power of state governments (and a Republican-stacked federal court system that gives almost infinite preference to state power) to dismantle much of the authority of federal government. Even before Roe came down, those courts were willing to protect state laws that clearly violated Roe. In the last week, the Supreme Court handed over control of key elements of immigration policy to the states, even though that power is explicitly a part of the federal government under the Constitution. That follows a ruling that not only stripped away the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to fight greenhouse gases, but undermined the entire system of federal regulation.
Republicans have certainly seen the signal—and not just in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ eager “send us your challenges” invitation on the destruction of Roe. Red-state attorneys general are cranking out lawsuits by the truckload, challenging every aspect of federal authority, while a Supreme Court waits to snip the final threads that remain protecting voting rights, abortion rights, and privacy rights of any kind. They’re not just building a white Christian state: They’re building one in which police are unbounded by any concern over violating rights, guns are the arbiters of any dispute, and any thought of “doing the right thing” is checked by the threat of jail or a lawsuit.
The only thing that can check the progress of this Court-assisted secession is the passage of federal law. Federal laws must protect every aspect of the nation, and every individual right that we thought we could take for granted. Federal law can override state action, and while it can’t stop a renegade court hellbent on destruction, it can at least force that court to declare its intentions so clearly that they become so revolting that increasing seats on the Court becomes an absolute requirement.
The best time to pass those federal laws is now, but the follow-up has to be keeping control of both the House and Senate. Or Republicans will only pull out an eraser.
Until the fever that has overtaken the GOP passes, they can’t be allowed to gain any branch of the federal government. Not the House. Not the Senate. Not the White House.