Twenty-five years ago, Ted Kennedy delivered a speech against Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork that even some liberal opponents of the former solicitor general thought was over the top. It led to the pejorative phrase, "to bork," meaning to assail one's character inaccurately and unfairly.
When I was reading about the Blunt amendment yesterday, I went back to Kennedy's words about “Robert Bork's America.” “It is a land,” Kennedy thundered, “where women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors … and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution.”
It seems to me that we are actually closer to this dark vision of America than we were in Bork’s day. Consider the Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer to deny contraception to women for any reason, lost by just two votes in the Senate, and that the likely nominee of the Republicans, Mitt Romney, felt compelled to support it, despite at first sounding very much opposed. Consider that Virginia and Alabama were seriously considering legislation recently to require invasive ultrasounds to rub women's noses in their consideration of a choice to end a pregnancy. Or that there are ongoing efforts in many states across the country to have evolution taught as a theory and to remove any mention of global warming from schools’ curricula. Or that there is a major party candidate for president who questions an absolute line between church and state.
I don't know the impact of all this on the 2012 election. But those who thought Robert Bork’s America was an exaggeration might need to think again.