A decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide would resemble a historic turning point. The court’s rulings are usually an indication of how the country’s political pendulum swings; and few issues are more sensitive to the American public than abortion. The planned overturning of the Roe vs Wade ruling is a sign of what we should expect in the coming years from the federal judges appointed by ex-president Donald Trump. These are not conservative, well-informed judges but ultraconservative activists who aim to change the American paradigm and push society in the direction of deep conservatism.
The Supreme Court ruling could, in fact, help the incumbent president, Joe Biden. Large chunks of American society may well be conservative but they are nevertheless against restricting abortion rights. Such a move might mobilize these masses ahead of crucial congressional elections in November, potentially stopping the Republicans from scoring some all-but-certain victories.
An important issue of course is, how did we get here? How did conservative fundamentalism sweep such large parts of American society? The wave of ultra political correctness that appears to have gotten hold of the Democratic Party in recent years (for example the debate over defunding the police or the debate over gender-neutral language) certainly has not helped.
Excessive behavior usually leads to more excessive behavior, particularly when financial conditions are tight and when people question the status quo.
American history shows that the country tends to swing from one extreme to the other. These days the pendulum tends to accelerate in a more violent and unpredictable manner. It also swings higher. The issues which cause the pendulum to swing are almost always identity-related; they have to do with religion, with migration, with people’s right to self-determination. They often veer beyond the classic political diving lines. At times of crisis dormant faults are reactivated. Meanwhile, social media give voice, and power, to those who want to make a fuss on either side. In the middle, the great majority is guided more by reason and moderation. It usually results in developments that pull it back to the center court of politics, as will likely happen again with the abortion rights case.