Not that any of the Republicans have asked me for advice, but I’ll give them some anyway: Fomenting backlash is not a winning strategy. Just as fire needs oxygen, stoking public anger against the Supreme Court can’t succeed in a vacuum. Backlash needs to be fed and sustained by fear: fear of crime; fear of a threat to “our Southern way of life”; fear, in the case of abortion, of a revolution in women’s traditional role in the family and in society.
And what, exactly, are people supposed to be afraid of now? A same-sex married couple with affordable health insurance?
Reading the opinions in the marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, I was struck by how determined the dissenters were to fan the flames of resentment. Be afraid, be very afraid, the dissenting justices warn those with religious objections to same-sex marriage. People who “cling to old beliefs” will be left having to “whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. cautioned. “The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, adding: “The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, however, that is not a word the majority uses.” That is quite a word choice, “ominously.”
So too is there danger in a recent Gallup poll indicating that for the first time in seven years, more Americans identify themselves as “pro-choice” than “pro-life.”
A week after the end of a remarkable court term, the message may be this: It’s not the voters, but the Republican presidential candidates, who should be afraid.