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Terry Manning

Wrongs done wrongly working out for the Right 

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The phrase “ill-gotten gains” keeps going through my mind. 

Ill-gotten gains. 

If you’re not familiar with the term it refers to rewards or accomplishments achieved by means of deception, wrongdoing, or evil. 

The overturn of Roe v. Wade qualifies as ill-gotten gains as far as I’m concerned. I know supporters of last week’s Supreme Court decision to strip women of agency over their own bodies could care less what concerns me. They don’t even care what concerns women who cried foul over the ruling. 

All that matters to them is they won, and “the libs” lost. 

It doesn’t matter to them that the people they connived and schemed to install on the Supreme Court all flat-out lied or danced around revealing their personal feelings on Roe v. Wade, on respecting legal precedent. 

When asked in 2017 if he accepted Roe as the law of the land, Neil Gorsuch, the first justice nominated by then-President Donald Trump, answered, “That is the law of the land. I accept the law of the land.” 

That was a lie. 

Maine Sen. Susan Collins said in 2018 that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh told her Roe was “settled law.” That satisfied Collins and won him her vote, but NPR quoted Democrat Chuck Schumer as recognizing the loophole Kavanaugh was leaving himself. 

“Saying a case is settled law is not the same thing as saying a case was correctly decided,” the New York senator countered. He knew how the game was played. 

Nominee Amy Coney Barrett did the same in 2020. Defining some court decisions as “super-precedents” — “cases that are so well settled that no political actors and no people seriously push for their overruling” — she said that Roe was not one, since it was regularly targeted for review. 

I wrote here once about Bill Clinton being a great liar because he lied like a lawyer would, picking words apart to find — or create — loopholes. These folks made him look like a newbie on amateur night at the Apollo Theater. 

So last week’s decision turns control over abortion rights back to the states. There, the justices wrote, the people can decide for themselves by electing lawmakers to represent their position on the issue. Fat chance of that happening. 

Despite polls showing as much as 80 percent support among Americans for abortion to be legal, Republican-led legislatures across the country plan to deny access to the medical procedure. The Washington Post reported 13 states had trigger laws that would take effect immediately on Roe’s overturn, and 13 others will enact limits as soon as they can. 

Only 10 states — and no, South Carolina isn’t among them — have majorities that actually want to eliminate abortion rights. Thirteen plus 13 is … 26? And 26 is more than 10, right? But sure, leave it up to states to reflect the will of their people. 

Not that conservatives care about that. They will do whatever they want and, to borrow a friend’s phrase, they’ll “make us like it.” 

Remember in 2012, when Sen. Lindsey Graham said: “If we lose this election there is only one explanation – demographics. If I hear anybody say it was because (Mitt) Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.” 

Many of us thought that was a suggestion to his party to try to broaden its appeal to these disenfranchised groups. Instead, they took it as a challenge to disenfranchise these groups even more, and they are using redistricting and false claims of election fraud as tools to cement political control. 

Believers in the Big Lie are running for public office at every level, from Congress on down to local precinct levels, to ensure Republicans won’t be held accountable for defying the public’s will. And if anyone can actually get the GOP into court to challenge them, well, the courts have been packed with right-wingers hand-picked to support conservative schemes. 

So yeah, ill-gotten gains feels like an accurate assessment of what’s going on. They keep telling anyone who’ll listen that they are doing this because they love the country, because they want to save it from a future without “stability and morals,” as a reader recently wrote to me. 

The old saying is that you generally don’t benefit from ill-gotten gains, but conservatives and the GOP are certainly making it look like a safe bet. For now, that is. 

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com. 

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