Brace for Impact

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The Supreme Court’s decision to abandon 50 years of judicial precedent on a woman’s constitutional right to abortion is sending gigantic shock waves across the nation and through the legal system. Add that to the absolutely damning evidence of Donald Trump’s treasonous attempt to overthrow American democracy in a planned and executed coup. Combined, these judicial and political atrocities send but one message to our already terribly divided nation — brace for impact!

No one who watched, listened to, or read about the Jan. 6 committee’s most recent hearing could possibly believe Trump’s big lie of a stolen election for one second. The Attorney General, acting Attorney General, and the entire top echelon of the U.S. Department of Justice did their jobs, investigated the potential for voter fraud across the nation and came to a unanimous agreement on one thing — there was no evidence of any actions by any individuals in any state, county, or municipality that could possibly affect the reality that Donald Trump simply lost his re-election bid.

Despite threats of physical violence — including intrusions into the homes of voting election officials — the witnesses at the hearing bravely told the nation that they stood their ground, followed the law, and did their jobs. Hardcore Republican conservatives — who admitted they wanted Trump to win — testified that they could not and would not break their oaths to uphold the constitution to cast doubt on the integrity of the American election system for Donald Trump. Even when threatened with dismissal and replacement they refused to claim there was a shred of truth in Trump’s Big Lie — despite his demand that they “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.

Nor can anyone possibly believe that a handful of Republicans in Congress would have asked for a blanket pardon from Trump before he left office unless they knew what they had done was not just wrong, not just antithetical to democracy, but carried the potential for criminal indictment, trial, and imprisonment. They absolutely knew they tried to overthrow the legitimate government of this nation and they feared they would be held accountable for their treasonous crimes.

But that was not the last assault on the nation when, only a day later, the Supreme Court decided women no longer have the right to control their own bodies, futures, or choices. In what can only be described as a shocking attempt to transform American democracy into a sick religious theocracy, the court’s conservative majority decided they have the right to control the most private aspects of every individual’s life. Justice Clarence Thomas — whose wife, Ginni, has been implicated with plotting and encouraging the Jan. 6 coup attempt — went even further to suggest Americans should no longer be allowed to marry whom they love or access and use contraceptives.

Much like Trump’s heinous attempt to overthrow the American electoral system, striking down Roe v. Wade not only casts aside foundational societal rights, it throws the entire basis of judicial precedent into chaos. Without sound assurance that decided law has some permanence we are left staring into a very uncertain future — where any precedent by which our society operates may disappear on the whim of a few political appointees put in place by the most corrupt president in our long history.

At this desperate juncture in American democracy, our nation has now been plunged into societal upheaval the severity of which we haven’t experienced since the brave struggles for abortion, voting, and civil rights half a century ago — and “Brace for Impact!” is no overstatement.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.