By now everyone has developed their own pet theory on who leaked the draft opinion in Dobbs V Mississippi, why it was leaked, etc. And a lot of really smart and good people are trying to get the news media gatekeepers – The NY Times for the mainstream, whatever mainstream actually means in 2022, and Fox News for the conservatives, whatever conservative actually means in 2022 too – to focus on the real issue, which is that at least five Republican Federalist Society backed appointees to the Supreme Court are prepared to and will overturn Roe and Casey and do so in a way that is intended to set up pretty much everything else back the Civil War amendments to also be overturned. Obergefell, Griswold, Loving, Brown, the Civil Rights Act, whatever’s left of the Voting Rights Act, everything pertaining to the New Deal, and then gutting the Civil War amendments. That’s the substantive story. Flat stop. Don’t pass go.
Up to this point the news media has failed to focus on the substantive, real story.
And that’s because their was a strategy in the leak. It wasn’t a leak, it was a feint and a provocation!
On the night that the draft decision leaked and the next day I was texting about it with TaMara, BettyC, and Tom Levenson. One of the points I made was this was done by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court – an idea that has now become something of common wisdom. But it was done so as part of a defined strategy. That strategy has four lines of effort:
- Make it harder, if not impossible, for Chief Justice Roberts to peel off Kavanaugh and maybe one of the other junior justices for his compromise that allows the Mississippi fifteen week limit to go into effect, but also keeps Roe and Casey intact.
- Set the narrative for the news media locking it into focusing on the leak, the damage the leak does to the court, and the danger to the justices and the Constitution as a result of the leak. This is just an extension of the normal conservative sore winner, we just got what we wanted, but we’re still the real victims and being victimized schtick they’ve been working for decades.
- Kick off the response early. By getting everyone rightly outraged now it sets the conditions for the outrage to subside by the time the actual ruling comes out in four to six weeks, let alone by the time the midterm elections roll around in November. It is hard to sustain that level of anger and willingness to protest en masse over a sustained period of time. Think of this as normalization by exhaustion and demoralization. You can’t stop it. The Democrats don’t appear to have a strategy, let alone a tactic that will do anything but look like a failed stunt. So by November what should drive up Democratic turnout and turnout by Independents for Democrats actually doesn’t happen because everyone who was rightly outraged is now just exhausted and demoralized.
- Set the conditions, as part of the narrative setting in the second part of the strategy, for someone who can be tied to the Democrats or the groups and movements that support them, to do something stupid, reckless, and downright dangerously violent in order to create an astroturfed backlash to the legitimate backlash. Here’s Yahoo News republishing Fox News reporting about how liberal groups have published the conservative justices home addresses as part of promoting their followers to go protest in front of their homes. If you keyword search “liberal groups publish justices addresses roe leak” all the reporting hits, other than the Yahoo republication, return for conservative outlets like Fox and National Review.
Just briefly, lets focus on line of effort 3. Yesterday we learned the following:
Wait a minute. Dems think they have a shot at passing a bipartisan bill that codifies Roe. But they don't want to bring it up for a vote?! https://t.co/yQ5vtI33Yk
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) May 6, 2022
And from Josh Marshall unpacking Politico‘s reporting (emphasis mine):
Last night, Politico Nightly had a somewhat ungenerous read on Democratic efforts to codify Roe. Congress Editor Elana Schor noted that Democrats are resisting efforts to join a bipartisan effort that is backed by pro-choice Senators Collins and Murkowski. That seems odd. Why wouldn’t they add those votes? The Collins and Murkowski option wouldn’t provide as fulsome protections for abortion access. But it would like get more than 50 votes rather than a vote in the high 40s. It makes the Democrats sound more interested in purity than results. So why not do that? Sen Mazie Hirono explains: since getting to 50 votes actually has no practical impact on passing the law, why not vote on a law you can enthusiastically get behind rather than a more watered down one?
That’s a pretty good logic.
But this logic illustrates the broader dead end the Democrats are walking into. These votes are often called “symbolic” votes. But that’s not an accurate description. Votes like these are test votes to frame electoral choices. You either force the opposition to make unpopular votes with the intention of campaigning on those votes in an election or — more directly — you use the votes to frame a clear electoral choice. So you tell voters, this is what is at stake in this election. Elect us and we will do this thing. As I’ve argued, in this case that means something like, give us two more Democratic senators and the House and we will codify Roe on the first day of the new Congress.
But at least so far that’s not what they’re doing. Congressional Democrats are essentially telling abortion rights supporters that they’re on their side but won’t actually be able to do anything about it regardless of the outcome of the election. They may get some benefit in reminding voters that Roe is about to be overturned because of Republicans. But since the results of the election won’t change anything there’s simply no way that can galvanize the electorate around Roe as Democrats seem (rightly) to want to do.
It’s just basic electoral physics. You can’t galvanize the election around an issue if you’re saying the results of the election will have no impact on the issue. Again, this is really obvious! You can’t both elevate an issue to extreme importance and also say there’s nothing that can be done about it — regardless of the outcome of the election. This is basic electoral physics.
More at the link!
Based on what Josh Marshall is reporting and his analysis, do you feel confident and/or enthused that the Democrats in the Senate have this? Of course you don’t because you’re not stupid. Do y0u feel confident that the failure to be able to rectify the coming injustice is going to motivate people to realize the Democrats need to keep the House majority and add two to four senators to their Senate majority so they can then fix it next January? Of course you don’t because you’re not stupid.
Now how do I know this was a coordinated provocation with a fixed strategy? Because by the time the leak occurred everyone working at Fox News, everyone appearing on Fox News to comment on the leak, every other conservative movement official or leader, conservative movement commentator or social media personality, and every Republican official all had the same talking points. There is only one person in the conservative movement who is in the senior leadership of a conservative movement group that meets to create and circulate comprehensive talking points on a regular basis to all of those listed above, who is plugged into almost every other conservative movement group in DC, and who is also tied directly to a member of the conservative wing of the Supreme Court. Her name is Ginni Thomas and the group that does the coordinated talking points is called Groundswell. Ginni Thomas also coordinates her husband’s current and former clerks through several different private electronic communication channels.
We know what the strategy is. So far they’ve succeeded with the second line of effort; they’ve locked in their preferred framing that the news is the leak, not that women’s right to bodily autonomy and therefore full citizenship is being taken away. While it’ll take a while to see if they succeed with lines of effort one and three, they’ve gotten lucky in that as of right now the Democrats don’t seem to have a strategy, tactic, or plan to actually effectively respond to what is happening and what will be happening. Finally, while we do not yet have violence directed at a justice or one of their family members, we do have the publishing of their home addresses, which will be spun as a call for it. I really do not want to have to watch what happens if someone so much as says “boo” to Alito while he’s out to dinner.
I don’t have many answers here for what to do. But I would suggest one thing. Specifically, the Democrats and the groups and movements that support them need to learn the lesson of what is being directed at Madison Cawthorn. Cawthorn is being politically killed in a slow death of a thousand cuts employing open sourced opposition research (oppo) as the knife that inflicts the wounds. There are people with the knowledge, skills, abilities, experience, and expertise who could and would do this type of work for the Democrats. Justice Thomas, Justice Kavanaugh, Justice Alito, Justice Barrett, Chief Justice Roberts (especially if the long whispered rumors are true), Senators McConnell, Graham, Cotton, (especially if the long whispered rumors are true), other GOP senators hiding equally shocking secrets, Congressman Gym Jordan (you think the showers were a one off type of thing, that this isn’t part of a pattern of behavior he’s so far been able to cover up?), Congressman Gaetz, Congresswomen Greene and Boebert, etc, etc, etc, etc. How about Pete Hegseth and his white supremacist and neo-NAZI tatoos? The rest of the staff at Fox News. Leonard Leo? There’s no way someone that creepy isn’t actually creepy, especially given the disgraced, sexually deviant Opus Dei leader who mentored him. Same Opus Dei priest by the way that is or was close to the Thomases, Alito, Scalia, Barr, etc within the DC Federalist Society and traditionalist Catholic community. Conservative movement leaders and commenters and pundits. All of them could and should be getting the Madison Cawthorn treatment right now and every day between now and November. And remember, this is all because Cawthorn publicly discussed that the GOP members of the House and Senate have drug fueled sex parties/orgies. This strategy that the GOP is employing to bring him down was not the result of his idolizing Hitler, being a scofflaw and menace to society, being poorly educated and clearly brain damaged as a result of the accident that put him the wheelchair. This strategy is being employed because he publicly talked about GOP members of the House and Senate hosting and participating in drug fueled sex parties/orgies. This tells us he was telling the truth. There’s plenty of oppo out there. All open sourced. It just has to be dug out and used.
Sure they’ll scream foul. Sure, they’ll try to target Democrats. What are they going to discover, that Congressman Raskin really needs a better shampoo and conditioner combo?
Our democratic-republic and self government is on the line. It is time to act like it.