Retrofuturism on the Supreme Court

Princeton sociology professor Paul Starr wrote an essay in the Washington Post, Conservatives Hope to Turn Back the Cultural Clock. Can They Succeed?

He writes that “[r]etrofuturism is a term for imaginative works that envision a future out of the past,” and he compares the Supreme Court’s abortion and other recent decisions to “prohibition and immigration restriction, both driven by native-born Protestants who identified liquor and immigrants with disorder and immorality.”

Today’s conservatives feel similarly threatened by changes they identify with disorder and immorality, including new waves of immigration and shifts in gender relations and gender identity.  But to succeed in turning back the cultural clock, they will need to escalate their crusade in several respects.

He concludes:

In the unfolding battle, both sides face arduous tasks. Liberals have to win rights in the political arena that they were unable to win that way in the first place. Conservatives have to escalate their crusade in ways that will stir opposition and likely create division in their own ranks.

The court could have been a moderate, stabilizing force in a dangerously polarized society, but its conservative majority has chosen a different course.  As the justices and red-state leaders go up the ladder of escalation, they will raise the stakes and risk feeding a backlash, undermining the authority of the court itself.  To control the future, conservatives would have to moderate their ambitions.  I’m not betting that they will.

Take a look.