MAGA: Back to 1868

Bruce Hartford June 2022

On June 23rd, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that states do not have constitutional authority to mandate gun-safety laws and regulations. On June 24th they ruled that states do have constitutional authority to regulate and control what a woman does with her own body for her own health and safety. Common senses tells us that they can't have it both ways and that this, and other recent rulings, are not grounded in constitutional-law but rather in the partisan politics of a Republican Party dominated by the cult of "Make America Great Again" (MAGA).

The MAGA slogan forces the question of what do they mean by "Again?" And when and what was the "greatness" they want to return to?

The text of this SCOTUS ruling makes it clear. The constitutional basis of Roe v Wade was the 14th Amendment which forbids government from taking away our freedoms. The MAGA justices argued that the 14th does not protect abortion rights because it ONLY protects those unwritten rights and freedoms that were already understood to exist in 1868 when the 14th was ratified. They label this legal theory "Originalism."

In 1868, U.S. law and economics were at the service of the tycoons and robber barons of the age, unions were illegal, businesses were free to conduct themselves in any manner they chose regardless of the consequences to others, and anti-pollution and consumer-safety laws were considered "Socialist" tyranny. Racial segregation & subjugation and denial of women's fundamental human rights were widely accepted and enforced. American culture and society were dominated by the dictates and dogma of fundamentalist, socially-conservative, Protestantism which was integrally included in and enforced by government.

Therefore, by the Originalist legal logic of the MAGA Court, the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s must be unconstitutional. And previous court rulings overturning miscegenation marriage laws, sodomy laws. prohibitions against contraception and same-sex marriages, must all have been "wrongly decided" because that wasn't the way America was in 1868.

On June 30th, in West Virginia v EPA, SCOTUS gutted the EPA's legal authority to protect us from global warming and save our children's future by restricting the greenhouse gas emissions of Big Oil and Big Power. A ruling based on the MAGA-Republican goal of returning America to the 1868 "greatness" of laissez-faire corporate capitalism and unconstrained, selfish greed.

Revocation of a woman's constitutional right to control her own health and body is yet one more atrocity in the long train of abuses that commenced with Trump's MAGA campaign in 2016. The reluctant timidity Democratic Party leaders to fiercely resist and effectively oppose these Republican assaults against our freedom and democracy is dismaying, discouraging, and disheartening — but not unprecedented. Yet we as a people have been here before, not once but several times, and we have always fought back.

In our living memory we can recall how the McCarthyite-Republican assault against the economic and social advances of the New Deal-era destroyed progressive labor unions and rendered others politically impotent. We remember how the "Double-V" civil rights efforts of Black soldiers returning from World War II and Korea were smothered and suppressed by a wave of KKK violence and Dixiecrat police repression. We remember how in many southern states the NAACP was legally declared to be a "subversive" organization and driven underground. We remember how mob violence, economic retaliation, and government smear campaigns created a climate of fear where all dissent and all questioning of authority were considered "treason." And we also remember how conservative and opportunist leaders of the Democratic Party wrung their hands and cowered in the corners rather than effectively resisting assaults on our democratic freedoms.

It was the resurgent Freedom Movement of the '50s and '60s, inspired by the defiant courage of young activists, that effectively fought back and forged forward. We beat them before, and we'll do it again.

Copyright © Bruce Hartford


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