The Assisted Suicide Wedge.
The Supreme Court ruling on assisted suicide is potentially a huge issue--for a couple reasons. First, it will open up end-of-life issues to a real debate, and we may see other states begin to look into death with dignity. The social and medical effects of the discussion should be valuable. They certainly were here in Oregon when we debated the Death with Dignity law.
But more importantly, the ruling has the look of a major wedge issue for liberals. Looking back to the Terri Schiavo incident, it seems clear where religious conservatives fall on the issue. Not only are they against the practice, they're willing to go to extraordinary means to prevent it. But assisted suicide is supported by a fairly substantial majority of Americans. (It varies depending on how the question is worded, but a CNN poll from last fall, which asked about the Oregon law, found that 64% of respondents felt "physicians should be given the right to dispense prescriptions to patients to end their life.") If that radical minority plays hardball to prevent a popular initiative, it could be exactly the kind of wedge issue that splinters the Republican coalition.
Roe preceeded the national impulse toward abortion, came from a top-down ruling, and ultimately wedged the left, driving off rural, working-class Democrats. Assisted suicide already has broad support, and the law has came up from the states. It looks to have every chance of wedging the right. Dems should take quick note and lead the discussion on national end-of-life issues, simultaneously using the issue to expose the radical core who guides social policy on the right. It's been a long time since the left had a winning issue with "values" voters. This may be it.