Gerth: McConnell gets some blame, but Democrats deserve most for overturned Roe v. Wade

Joseph Gerth
Louisville Courier Journal

If you want to blame someone for the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade and overturning a half-century of law that recognized a woman’s right to have abortions, you might not start where you probably want to.

Sure, it’s easy to blame all the justices who, when they were confirmed, talked about Supreme Court precedent and stare decisis and blah, blah, blah — all those things designed to make you think they’d uphold Roe v. Wade.

We all (except for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine) knew what they were going to do.

You might want to blame Mitch McConnell who made up some silly “Biden Rule” that he relied on when he refused to give Merrick Garland even a hearing after President Barack Obama nominated him to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.


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But when you come right down to it, those who are most responsible are the Democrats.

They’re the ones who, staring at an open Supreme Court seat that if filled by a Democrat could have ensured that Roe would stand for another generation, fell prey to Republicans and their constant harping about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and who worried emails on a private computer server should disqualify Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats are the ones who didn’t show up.

Let me say that again. 

The Democrats knew that whoever was elected would get to fill Scalia's seat and they didn't show up. 

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The populist liberals furthest to the left — the Bernie Bros, if you will — are even more to blame.

They grabbed hold of Sanders’ claim that the Democratic primary was somehow “rigged” in Clinton’s favor and played right into the hands of Trump who, to this day, has thrived on his grievances against the establishment that gave way to the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

One problem is the idea perpetrated by those on the far left that there isn’t any difference between the mainstream Democrats and the GOP is utterly insane. You’ll see the same nonsense from the far right as they complain about RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) as if they, and they alone, get to decide what a real Republican is.

Some of those on the left used this thinking to justify their decision to either stay home or cast their vote for third-party candidates, rather than vote for a Democrat who they didn’t agree with 100% of the time.

American women are about to find out that there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats.

In many southern states (Kentucky included) and other places where Republicans rule, women are going to be forced to carry to term fetuses that are the result of rape and incest, fetuses that have such dire medical problems we know they can’t live outside the womb.

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They’ll be forced in many states to carry fetuses to term even if it puts their lives at risk.

And, it’s the Democrats’ fault.

Republicans have long understood that when it comes to the issue of abortion, the real game is the Supreme Court, which decided in 1974 that women had a constitutionally protected right to end their pregnancies.

As such, according to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, a higher percentage of Republicans have voted for the Republican presidential candidate (the person who appoints Supreme Court members) than Democrats supported Democratic candidates in eight of the 12 elections since Roe was decided.

Two of the years that more Democrats voted for Democrats, conservatives had a strong, well-funded conservative candidate in Ross Perot to sap away some of the GOP votes, opening the door for Bill Clinton to win twice.

Democrats were marginally more likely to support a Democrat in 2016 and the two parties were equally as likely to support their own in 2020.

Gallup found in a poll two years ago that 30% of abortion foes would not vote for a candidate who didn’t share their views on abortion, while only 19% of abortion rights supporters wouldn’t support a candidate who didn’t share their views on abortion.

Republicans have always taken the issue of abortion more seriously.

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With that in mind, the Supreme Court is always high on the list of Republican talking points in presidential races. Trump went so far as publishing a list of who he might appoint.

So, even with McConnell refusing to confirm Garland to the Supreme Court, and with the choice of a new justice to replace Scalia hanging in the balance, Democrat’s and particularly liberals, just didn’t show up in 2016.

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According to Roper, only 84% of liberals voted for Clinton. It was the lowest percentage of liberals to vote for the Democrat since 2000, when the U.S. electorate wasn’t nearly as divided as it has been in the last five years.

What’s more, 6% of liberals threw their votes away on third party candidates. According to Roper, it was the highest number of liberals to vote third party since 6% of them voted for Ralph Nader in 2000.

But the best evidence that Democrats gave it away comes in the raw numbers.

In the three states that mattered most — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — Clinton underperformed terribly.

In Wisconsin and Michigan, she got fewer votes than any Democratic presidential candidate since Al Gore in 2000. And in Pennsylvania, she got just 0.6% more votes than Barack Obama got in 2012 — and that year he got the fewest votes cast in that state for a Democrat since 2000.

Meanwhile, compared to 2012, Trump underperformed by just 1.9% in Wisconsin. And in Michigan, he got 7.4% more votes than Mitt Romney did four years earlier, and in Pennsylvania he got 13.4 more votes.

That’s despite the fact that he had just a 37% popularity rating in the days before the election, according to Morning Consult poll.

Omri Ben-Shahar, a law professor at the University of Chicago, may have said it best in a Forbes op-ed piece two weeks after the election.

“Trump did not win because he was more attractive to this base of white voters. He won because Hillary Clinton was less attractive to the traditional Democratic base of urban, minorities, and more educated voters,” he wrote.

Those people put personality over policy. And now that the court has overturned Roe v. Wade, it’s American women who will pay the price.

Joseph Gerth can be reached at 502-582-4702 or by email at