It’s shocking. The draft of a Supreme Court majority opinion has been leaked. The opinion does not concern minute debates over water rights or intellectual property law. It’s the opinion in the Dobbs case, which concerns Roe and Casey, two of the most contentious decisions the Court has issued in my lifetime. A leak of this magnitude is an effort to subvert the Court’s procedure and norms.
It’s more than shocking. It’s outrageous. Since Trump appeared on the scene in 2016, we’ve been subjected to continual warnings about “violations of constitutional norms” and “authoritarian threats.” Hapless MAGA enthusiasts stormed the Capitol, and our prosecutorial apparatus has thrown the book at them. It’s difficult to get through the week without being told about the dangers of “white nationalism.”
Yet the threats to our public institutions have been otherwise. For more than two years after Trump was elected, mainstream media flogged the Russian collusion hoax that was promoted by our intelligence agencies. Democrats in Congress engaged in an unprecedented slowdown of administrative appointments. During the pandemic, a multifaceted coalition of left-wing organizations and donors orchestrated the biggest change in electoral laws since the Voting Rights Act of 1964—and did so out of the public eye. The Biden administration flouts constitutional restraints, daring the Supreme Court to countermand the usurpations of legislative authority.
And now we’re witnessing an assault on the judiciary. The privilege of confidentiality is central to the deliberative function of appellant panels, especially the Supreme Court. The leak of the opinion concerning Dobbs is unprecedented in modern history. It amounts to an attempted judicial coup.
Our liberal elite, which controls nearly every major institution in our society, cultivates a “total war” mentality, one that will stop at nothing to maintain control. This mentality encourages the very people who should be defending our core institutions to destroy them rather than allow the slightest diminution of elite power.
And destroy they have. At this juncture, our university culture is in ruins. After the American public was subjected to relentless propaganda during the pandemic (“racism is a public health emergency”), the authority of science is in tatters. Sen. Mitch McConnell warned Democrats that they would rue blowing up Senate traditions for judicial confirmations—but they did so anyway. Now, these same people—rich, well-positioned, beneficiaries of prestigious educations, rewarded by our system—are dismantling the integrity of our rule of law.
Not a single member of the liberal establishment has been held accountable for these and other instances of damage to our society. No journalist’s career was sidetracked for having peddled falsehoods about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Instead, they got Pulitzer Prizes. The same holds for public health officials, university presidents, and foundation heads. The same retired intelligence bigwigs who pronounced the Hunter Biden laptop story a hoax continue to appear on TV, shamelessly pretending to speak with authority.
In Return of the Strong Gods, I wrote, “Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, and other populist challengers are not choirboys or immaculate liberals. But their limitations are not nearly as dangerous to the West as the fanaticism of our leadership class.” The leaked majority opinion is just another piece of evidence.
Huey Long was a populist politician whom establishment liberals labeled a threat to the American system of government. He was reputed to have responded to these attacks with a mordant quip: “Sure, we’ll have fascism in this country, and we’ll call it anti-fascism.”
The authority and dignity of the United States Supreme Court is being attacked. It beggars belief that the leak was the action of a single individual. In all likelihood, it involved consultation with and encouragement by media bigwigs, activist organizations, Democratic politicians, and perhaps individuals in the White House. This attack is far more consequential than the rhetorical rotten tomatoes that Donald Trump regularly lobs. Those behind the leaked draft opinion in Dobbs are certain to insist that they leaked it in order to save “our democracy.”
Let me reformulate Long’s astute observation: Sure, we’ll have anti-liberalism in this country, and we’ll call it a defense of liberalism.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.
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