Price on Politics: This summer was politically eventful, here are 4 reasons why

Megan+Fisher

Megan Fisher

Price Wilborn, Commentary writer

At the end of the previous semester, I wrote that this summer was gearing up to be an eventful one. In the four months since classes ended, the word “eventful” seemed to be an understatement.

To ring in the new semester, I have developed a list of four noteworthy things that happened this summer. It was difficult to choose just four, and I still went over my word count. Here are four things that happened this summer that you should take note of.

Roe vs. Wade overturned

On June 24, the United States Supreme Court issued a majority opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, a decision that was help up for nearly 50 years guaranteeing abortion access to all Americans. 

In the majority opinion, Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “we hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely – the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Alito also wrote that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”

Alito wrote – and concurring justices agreed – that “it is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

What followed was high numbers of demonstrations in the streets of America on both sides of the issue. Dozens of protests were scheduled in the following days. According to a July poll done by the Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans disagreed with the decision of the Supreme Court.

In a number of states, so-called “trigger laws” went into effect as soon as the Supreme Court handed down its opinion. Kentucky and Tennessee were two of these 13 states. Tennessee’s abortion ban went into effect on Aug. 25. In Kentucky, lawsuits extended the legality of the state’s access to abortion, but the law went into effect on Aug. 2.

The reversal of Roe was unprecedented for a decision upheld through many challenges in the last 50 years. It has left many Americans with many questions, ranging from “in which states can I legally get an abortion?” to “will the right to gay marriage be next?”

For a look into my thoughts on abortion, click here.

Jan. 6 Committee hearings

In the last Price on Politics of the previous semester, I identified the hearings that were at the time upcoming of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.

Since then, the committee has held eight hearings, with more scheduled in the fall. The members of the committee are mostly Democrats with two Republicans having seats: Vice-Chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Throughout the hearings, members asked questions of members of the US Capitol Police, rioters themselves and members of the Trump administration.

Surprising revelations came from the witnesses called. One of the most surprising testimonies given came from Cassidy Hutchinson, former White House Aide and assistant to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Hutchinson described accounts from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani telling her “we’re going to the Capitol. … The president is going to be there. He’s going to look powerful.” She described Chief of Staff Meadows telling her that “things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”

Hutchinson also described actions of President Trump on Jan. 6, both that she witnessed and that she heard after the fact. During the testimony, Hutchinson stated that “I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, ‘I don’t even care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f-ing mags away.”

The former White House aide also described an incident in which the president, when informed that he would not be going to the Capitol following his speech, attempted to grab the steering wheel away from the Secret Service agent driving the vehicle.

Following Hutchinson’s testimony, the former president posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, attacking the aide. He wrote, “Lyin’ Cassidy Hutchinson, who the Fake News Media refuses to properly reveal, recently called the Jan. 6 Unselect Committee ‘B.S.’ Gee, that wasn’t reported by LameStream!”

Throughout the eight hearings, Trump and his allies continually blasted the committee for investigating where there was nothing to be investigated.

It is yet to be seen the full effects of the committee’s hearings on the American electorate. Monmouth University released a poll in August titled “Jan. 6 Hearings Have No Impact on Opinion.” The poll showed that “38% of the public thinks Trump is directly responsible for what happened on Jan 6th.”

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said “the sensational revelations during the hearings do not seem to have moved the public opinion needle on Trump’s culpability for either the riot or his spurious election fraud claims.”

With the midterm elections approaching in November, it is yet to see how American support for Trump and the GOP has changed, if at all.

Biden legislative wins

This summer, President Joe Biden has found himself in a good position. Despite a divided Congress, the president has had several legislative victories in recent weeks.

On July 11, the president gave a speech commemorating the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This bill is the most comprehensive gun legislation passed in recent history. The bill requires people 21 and younger to receive a background check before purchasing a firearm. It also includes “the first-ever federal law that makes gun trafficking and straw purchases explicit federal crimes” and “clarifies who needs to register as a federally licensed gun dealer and run background checks before selling a single weapon.”

On Aug. 9, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 into law. The White House stated that “the CHIPS and Science Act will boost American semiconductor research, development, and production, ensuring U.S. leadership in the technology that forms the foundation of everything from automobiles to household appliances to defense systems.”

The CHIPS and Science Act will inspire further technological advancements through this additional funding, which will “ensure the United States maintains and advances its scientific and technological edge.”

On Aug. 10, the president signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The White House Fact Sheet on the bill’s signing states, “to ensure veterans can receive high-quality health care screenings and services related to potential toxic exposures, the PACT Act expands access to VA health care services for veterans exposed during their military service.”

These and other legislative victories the Biden administration pushed through increased Democratic chances of doing well in the upcoming midterm elections. Biden’s approval rating also rose after each of these actions. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Aug. 23 placed the president’s approval rating at 41%, the highest of the summer.

Midterm primaries

The Kentucky midterm primaries were held on May 19, with Tennessee’s State and Federal Primary following on Aug. 4. Kentucky’s primary election officially set up the November showdown between incumbent Republican senator Rand Paul and Democratic senate nominee Charles Booker. Paul is the favorite to win the race with Politico forecasting a “likely Republican” win.

In the Spring, I wrote about Charles Booker having a shot to win in November, but this is looking less likely as the election moves closer. At the annual Fancy Farm Picnic held by St. Jerome Catholic Church in Graves County, Kentucky, Booker was the Democrat highest on the ticket to speak. Booker used the time given to him to throw barbs at Senator Paul and other Republicans, both in attendance and not. Paul was not able to attend due to Senate duties in Washington.

Booker’s slot as one of three Democrats to speak helped him to get his platform across but hurt him by giving the eleven Republican speakers a chance to fire off attacks of their own. Going into November, Booker has an uphill battle, but he will not go down without a fight.

Following the Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade, the midterm elections have become a referendum of sorts on abortion rights, as well as other rights for women, members of the BIPOC community and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Democrats and young people around the country are fighting to win elections that could allow Democrats to codify abortion access nationwide.

Republicans are running to take the House and Senate majorities, controlling what bills get passed and sent to President Biden’s desk. Following the Jan. 6 Committee hearings, the recent FBI raid of former president Trump’s estate of Mar-A-Lago in Florida and the former president’s continued remarks and attitude to issues, Republican chances have decreased. 

Data compiled by Real Clear Politics in January had Republicans chances to win in a Generic Congressional Vote were 1.8% greater than Democrats. In April, these chances were as high as 4.8%. On Aug. 28, Democrats had closed this gap, with Republicans only having a 0.8% chance of winning in November.

It’s unclear what will happen on election night in November. With just over nine weeks until polls open, each house of Congress is still a toss up. The power balance in Washington will not greatly change, but at least a small shift is likely. The Biden-Harris administration has had to continuously make compromises in their legislative priorities, even with a Democratic controlled House and an evenly divided Senate. In the coming weeks, Americans will see just how much power President Biden has in the Democratic Party, how much power former president Trump has in the GOP and how many Americans want something new.

Gear up, because it’s going to be an eventful fall.

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.