Checks and Balances

I was recently talking with a liberal college-educated white woman in San Francisco. I don't know who she voted for, but she felt assured that our system of governmental checks and balances would see us through the next four years. She put it this way:

"Don't worry, Alicia" she urged. "We have a constitutional right to choice." [referring to the prospect of Roe v. Wade being overturned]

"What?!" I said.

"Yes, it's in the constitution."

I was horrified. I wasn't remotely tactful or soft in my reply. "You are wrong," I said. "There is no constitutional right to choice or abortion. Nowhere in the constitution does it say you have this right."

You should have seen the look on her face.

Now have the amendments in the constitution been used to argue for a woman's access to abortion in cases in front of the Supreme Court? Yes. But is a right to choice/abortion in the constitution?  No.

The difference is very important.

What this woman didn't understand, and most people, even the very educated don't understand, is how government and law works. Perhaps this is why so many comfort themselves with the idea that while we may not be able to trust Trump, we should trust the checks and balances that are built into our government. Except most people don't understand how these work.

At any other time, this lack of knowledge would seem harmless, but I hope people will now realize that a lack of knowledge about how our government and our legal system work can have devastating results.