As Republicans struggle to find a way to repeal and replace Obamacare, and liberals and conservatives gear up for a battle over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, it strikes me that the same lesson can be drawn from both phenomena: how much easier it is to hold radical opinions when you have no hope of passing legislation.

What do I mean by that? Well, consider the Judicial Wars. Of course, different people will have different dates for the start of that long conflict, but there's a plausible argument that it began with the sweeping decision in Roe v. Wade. At a stroke, the Supreme Court cut down all the nation's abortion laws, and took the question out of the political process.

There has been a long-running argument about whether public opinion on abortion would have continued to liberalize after Roe v. Wade, rather than hardening into a remarkably stable equilibrium.

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