Today brings the sad news that Robert Bork has passed away. The sadder news for America, though, came in 1987, when the Senate unjustly rejected his nomination to the Supreme Court. There is no doubt that, had Bork been confirmed, Roe v Wade would have been overturned in 1992 when the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v Casey. Unlike Anthony Kennedy, whom the Senate ultimately confirmed and who voted to reaffirm Roe in Casey, Bork possessed the fortitude to stand up to the pressures that exist in the Beltway to move to the left.
Interestingly, in view of recent disparaging comments made here about Americans who vote for Republicans, a principal reason Bork lost in the Senate was that Southern Democrats, who were still a formidable force in the Senate in 1987, voted against Bork. Howell Heflin, Richard Shelby, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham, Sam Nunn, Wyche Fowler, Wendell Ford, John Breaux, John Stennis, and Terry Sanford all voted against Bork. Today, most of those Senate seats are held by Republicans, including that of Richard Shelby, who has subsequently switched parties. If those Senate seats had been held by Republicans in 1987, we would today be mourning the loss of Justice Bork and remembering all the good he did on the Supreme Court, rather than all the good he might have done there.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.