Robert Bork has died at the age of 85.
Bork became a national headline when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. He was a legal conservative, a “strict constructionist,” judicially speaking. He warned about the road that America was taking in neglecting its Constitutional principles, and saw doom and gloom ahead. He was pessimistic about America generally, dreading the grip that modern liberalism had on the nation. Liberalism was pushing America toward decline. We were headed to hell in a hand-basket. A decade after his failed confirmation, Bork authored a bestselling book aptly titled, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline.
Bork had seen liberalism up close and full throttle. During his unsuccessful confirmation hearings in 1987, Bork was smeared by liberals. He was hysterically and unfairly portrayed by radical abortion feminists and the likes of Senator Ted Kennedy as an abuser and assaulter of women—a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, a kind of political/cultural gargoyle. They demonized Robert Bork and railroaded his nomination, ushering in a whole new level of incivility and politicization of the judicial nomination process. Liberal journalists literally dug through Bork’s trash looking for anything to attack the man; they went to the nearby video store to find out what he rented.
“Hmmm,” they rubbed their hands together hopefully, “any X-rated flicks, Judge Bork?”
Alas, to their shock, Robert Bork did not inhabit that universe. They learned that Bork had an affinity not for pornographic film but for “Fred and Ginger” movies.
“Hah,” they hissed, “what a square!”
The left’s assault on Bork was unhinged, a precursor of behavior to come with later judges they disliked, particularly pro-life judges. Indeed, they were so nasty to Bork that the man’s name has become a verb: When liberals vilify a conservative Supreme Court nominee, like a Clarence Thomas, we now say that the nominee was “Borked.”
The tributes to Bork have revisited this sordid history. But none, to my knowledge, have zeroed in on the area where, sadly, I believe he was most prophetic—namely, his pessimism about American culture.
I never met Bork to discuss that pessimism, but a former Grove City College student of mine did. It was about 10 years ago. I was speaking at Ave Maria University School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My student, Mark, was there. He was taking a class that semester with Judge Bork. He shared with me a dose of classic Bork pessimism. Mark had tried to buoy Bork a bit, optimistically telling the doomsayer that America’s future looked good because of promising demographics. He noted that orthodox Roman Catholics and committed evangelicals were having lots of children, whereas the secular left was not. Surely, he assured Bork, this boded well for the culture.
“No, no,” said Bork. The judge agreed on the demographics but noted that most of these Catholics and evangelicals send their kids to colleges dominated by secular liberals, where all those ideals and values they learned at home and at their churches was rapidly undermined in four years—with the faithful parents unwittingly paying for the undermining. In short order, these conservative Christians end up advocating abortion and gay rights.
“We’re doomed,” Bork assured my student. America was on the road to Gomorrah.
Unfortunately, I think Robert Bork was exactly right. We are doomed.
For today’s liberals, who call themselves “progressives,” support for abortion now means forcing fellow taxpayers to pay for it (plus contraception), and support for gay rights has morphed into redefining the 3,000-year-old definition of marriage. Many of us are shocked by this, but I’m sure Robert Bork wasn’t. He had seen liberals up close and full throttle.
Bork was a man ahead of his time.
Robert Bork, rest in peace—far away from the shores of Gomorrah.