The leaking of a draft of the US Supreme Court’s majority opinion overruling Roe v. Wade is a momentous, and unprecedented, occasion, though its consequences are only beginning to be felt. Roe is hardly a small factor in American political life, and the abortion debate more generally is among the country’s most polarizing. Yet it would be mistake to focus too much on the status of Roe, or even abortion itself. The stakes are likely to rise far higher than even such grave matters. And quite soon.

A genie is out of the bottle, and there is no stuffing it back in. This is true on several levels. First, the high court is one of the remaining institutions in the United States where there still reigns a sense that, “Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling, there are rules” (to quote John Goodman’s immortal character in The Big Lebowski). The Supreme Court is one of the last institutions whose proceedings command respect, even if partisans might disagree with this or that outcome.

The leak will do serious damage to that respect, aggravated by the fact that nobody on the left even seems to care. On the contrary, progressive writers and activists are suggesting that this is a legitimate manner for putting pressure on the Supremes, another tool in the political toolbox. Vox’s Ian Millheiser, for example, tweeted a “shout-out to whoever the hero was within the Supreme Court who said, ‘Fuck it! Let’s burn this place down.’” He garnered nearly 4,000 retweets as of this writing.

The United States today has a long list of institutions whose legitimacy has crashed in the eyes of at least half the citizenry: the media, the woke military, much of the administrative apparatus. It is highly likely that faith in even the notional independence of the Supreme Court will soon suffer the same fate.

Get the best of Compact right in your inbox.

Sign up for our free newsletter today.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link.
Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.