Back to the Future

Richard C. Gross
5 min readJul 5, 2023

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BY RICHARD C. GROSS

“The Cruel War is raging, Johnny has to fight.”

— Peter, Paul and Mary, “The Cruel War,” 1962

Welcome to 1950.

The mean, cruel, unnecessary, un-American, un-Christian and unpardonable rulings the past year among conservatives of this Trump-created rogue Supreme Court will not stand. They’re based on flimsy arguments, law experts say. Ways and means must be found to bypass these major setbacks to democracy to meet the ideals of our founding documents. The court must be changed.

Will vulnerable laws guaranteeing same-sex marriage and Obamacare be next to fall under the court’s sharpened ideological guillotine? Where and when will it stop?

This court with its 6–3 conservative majority has swallowed the ideology of the far-right; it no longer seems to be an impartial arbiter. It has no sense of what the majority of people want; if it does have such a sense, it merely ignores their preferences, a worse crime.

The court’s acts collectively affecting millions of Americans are all part of the cult-like Trumpian takeover of the Republican Party led by an accused corrupt and possibly deranged individual running for president for a third time, including his false assertion that he won the 2020 election for a second term.

The extremist rightwing, backed by tens of millions of evangelicals, is trying to overturn all of the hard-won progress toward the pursuit of happiness and equality that echoes the Declaration of Independence and has been supported by previous courts.

The court has overturned what most folks regarded as inviable laws. Imagine what would happen if the Republicans again gained the White House and even Congress, especially with the possibility of Trump achieving his do-over. The country and its ideals would become ashes of themselves, like Pompeii.

The minority in this woefully divided country is waging a cruel war against the majority, many of them secular. Twenty-four percent of Americans were unaffiliated with a religion in 2017, according to the American Values Atlas of the Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI).

Fully 31 percent of Americans were “nones” without religious affiliation in 2016 and 29.5 percent were “nones” in 2018, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study said.

The Wheaton College’s Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals estimates that 30 to 35 percent of the population is evangelical — 90 to 100 million people — including white and Black “cultural evangelicals” who don’t attend church regularly but identify as evangelicals.

That number surprised me. What surprises me more is how evangelicals, Christians who pray to the goodness of Jesus, can vote for a madman like Trump and his genuflecting followers in Congress. Trump doesn’t even attend church.

Twenty-eight of the 50 states are red, 19 are blue and three are split.

The U.S. population this year is 336 million, says the Congressional Budget Office, 4 percent of the world’s estimated 7.9 billion people.

It apparently isn’t enough for people of faith that the American phrase “In God We Trust” first was put on the 2-cent coin in 1864 because of religious sentiment during the Civil War. Further, President Dwight D. Eisenhower included “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 to distinguish America from the Communist Soviet Union during the Cold War; official Soviet policy favored atheism. The Kremlin did not ban religion but frowned on it.

Ike put “In God We Trust” on paper currency a year later and Congress made it the national motto in 1956, changing it from “E Pluribus Unum,” Latin for “one from many.” It refers to melding the states into a federal union, not people.

How much more can we melt the separation of church and state and remain America?

None of the three Trump-nominated conservative justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — said unequivocally in their hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee that they would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. They said only that it was settled law that set a precedent. But it was a hint toward acceptance that most everyone else misunderstood

But many in the public, it seems, took their words as pledges not to kill Roe, which women relied on for half a century. Now they say the justices lied. The lesson: never trust a Republican, especially one running for office. Congress should demand proper detailed responses to questions about sensitive issues during hearings of nominees for office.

“This decision,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said about the vote to erase the law that permitted the constitutional right to abortion, “is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me.” See what I mean?

Some Republicans apparently make lying part of their standard approach to wooing potential voters.

The court’s conservatives are rebuilding a past, where they appear to want to live. There was a time before 1973 when a woman’s right to choose for her body was against the law. Roe was intended to fix that.

They eliminated more than $40 billion over 10 years

purposely to help students pay their debt incurred for seeking higher education; gave local small businesses the right to discriminate against LGBTQI+ folks over a wedding website; and wiped away a 58 — old law designed to end discrimination against historically excluded racial minorities and women in employment and college admissions.

What a sweep of decimation of laws and a proposal, like the blasted terrain of a World War I battlefield. And there’s no counter, only surrender or find another way. Don’t give up. The issues are too important to the people.

By its actions, the court’s radical conservatives took upon themselves a re-creation of the 1950s, if not the pre-Civil War 1850s, by shooting down hallowed, meaningful laws that brought justice to the powerless.

Their erasure stands as nothing but egregious cruelty, retribution for liberal policies. The petty conservatives, especially those who have been gurgling champagne celebrating what they view as victories, should be completely ashamed of themselves. They’re not Americans, whatever birth certificates they hold.

It is Congress, not the courts, that make the laws.

It’s time for the composition of the nation’s highest court to be changed, perhaps from nine to 11 justices. And their terms should be reduced drastically from lifetime to 10 years — to bring more balance to a court of majority conservatives that has acted beyond their jurisdiction and are out of control.

As for Johnny and his cruel war, he represents all of us who fight against the step-by-step undoing of American democracy to make space for a theologically-backed conservative country creeping openly toward authoritarianism.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East, the Pentagon and was foreign editor of United Press International, was the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.

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Richard C. Gross

Correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor at home and abroad with United Press International. Retired as opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.