Random Sunday Night Thoughts
1. I think it is great news overall for the SEIU and Teamsters (and perhaps some others following them) to split from the AFL-CIO. While a split of the AFL-CIO did not lead to good things for labor when Walter Reuther's United Auto Workers walked out of the AFL-CIO in 1967 (again, ironically, with the Teamsters) over the issue of organizing the American South (the AFL-CIO leadership rejected Reuther's position to its everlasting failure that has helped lead to the current predicament), there is another historical parallel: When John L. Lewis decided it was time to stop playing footsie with a moribund AFL in the late 20's or early '30s, this led to a flowering of union agitation that played perfectly into forcing FDR's hand in passing pro-labor legislation that led to the greatest expansion of wealth for working class people anywhere and anytime in human history. Andy Stern of the SEIU is seeking to put money into organizing and media in general, not the Democratic Congressional Committee fundraisers. Considering labor has gotten essentially nothing from the general Democratic Party, this is a strategy worth trying for unions and our nation.
2. Katha Pollitt is correct that no good can come from overturning Roe v. Wade for women in at least half the states in America. It's not because abortion is not supported as a right by more than half the women and men in America, but because of politics in general. Plus, pushing pro-choice Republicans deeper into the Democratic Party will continue to produce Diane Feinstein Democrats--killing babies in their womb and handing out corporate goodies to post-partum corporate executives.
Also, let's stop with the garbage that says "Oh, if only the US Supreme Court didn't render their opinions in Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education, there would have been a better organized political fight that would have allowed abortion and racial intergration to succeed..." First, as Katha Pollitt points out, between 1970 and 1973, there was not much movement toward reproductive autonomy for women and quite a few women having to sneak around to sometimes dangerous illegal abortions performed by butchers. As for Brown v. Board of Education, the importance of having the US Supreme Court tell the nation--and the world--that education segregation by race was legally and morally wrong (yes, it was written as a moral pronouncement) created a protective aura around those engaging in non-violent civil disobedience of mere State laws that still enforced segregation in housing and restaurants, etc. Does anyone really believe the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act were delayed because of Brown?
And let's understand, first off, that abortion, unlike say, homosexuality, has had a varied and ambiguous history in terms of both laws in western societies that allowed abortion to some extent--and, when illegal, how little abortion laws were enforced when and where they existed. This is true not only in American history, but in many other western nations' histories. There are even deep ambiguities within the Catholic Church's view of abortion over the centuries. Roe v. Wade goes into this history quite well--go ahead, read it. It won't bite and you'll find that it is far better reasoned than most people would believe based upon what has been ridiculously poor commentary by most political pundits and some legal scholars that wrongfully trashes this decision.
As for the Supreme Court civil rights cases from the 1940s through the 1970s, these decisions were largely the Supreme Court atoning itself for its earlier betrayal of blacks following right wing courts in the late 19th Century which decided that the 14th Amendment was passed more for corporations than people of darker skin pigment. Rayford Logan's The Betrayal of the Negro, as well as Eric Foner's and WEB DuBois' histories of the Reconstruction Era are quite good in understanding that Brown was the result of the Court becoming tired of the culture and the legislatures not getting with the program that the Reconstruction Era was supposed to have completed by the 1880s.
(Yes, I know that in DC at the time of the passage of the 14th Amendment, there was school segregation. And I know well of DuBois' very bad elitist tendencies. However, the point overall on the Brown decision is that the South would have had more free reign against black "agitators" if there was nothing the federal government could do about it.
Let's face facts: a world without Roe is not a world that would have been any better for women in this nation as far as having better control over their bodies and their lives (I perhaps should post one day my defense of Roe from a standpoint of jurisprudence, but that's another story).) And a world without Brown v. Bd. of Education would not have been a better world for African-Americans. These decisions are worth the fight in this nomination (with Brown, I speak of the elasticity of the Commerce Clause, which, while not pretty in Brown, has more direct relevance now for economically oriented and environmentally oriented laws that are in danger if John Roberts is confirmed to the US Supreme Court).