To say the least, the latest reporting on the impropriety of the Supreme Court has been discouraging. Most recently uncovered by ProPublica is that Clarence Thomas has had high power benefactors and confidants, specifically a billionaire named Harlan Crow and his associates, showering him lavishly with gifts and vacations in exchange for access and influence over the last 20 years. Doling out trips on super-yachts and private jets, Harlan Crow even purchased Thomas’s mother’s house to eventually, according to CNN, open the house to the public to “honor” Thomas. In a disturbing onion of psychological analysis I won’t fathom, Crow gifted Thomas a 19 thousand dollar Bible belonging to Frederick Douglass. Thomas failed to disclose any of it. Legally, he may have been required to and ethically, it stands to reason he should have. Morally, well, what’s that?
I guess what strikes me most about all of this shady behavior is that I kind of just assumed it was already happening. Like a failed relationship, the details sting but they aren’t strictly necessary. Do I need to know who paid off Brett Kavanaugh’s 100 thousand dollars worth of “baseball ticket” debt to know he has rich pals who do him favors? Personally I find it kind of funny that he was able to get away with claiming in a reference to his former debauched college years, through tears of hilariously impotent rage, that “The Devil’s Triangle” was a drinking game that he can’t remember the rules to. And does anyone really believe that Thomas’s deranged conspiracy theory chain letter-forwarding MAGA cultist wife, Ginny, doesn’t coordinate with or draw power from his position? Is that really possible? To me it’s transparent that these preposterously clad former yuppies, channeling their ecclesiastical forebearers and casting divine curses on us all are simply and obviously corrupt.
What’s more important to understand and what I really want to dig into is what their political motivations are and how they make decisions. The new conservative majority court wasted no time in overturning several previously settled laws. Most notably federal abortion protections, turning the decision to regulate abortion back to individual States. Inversely, they decided to remove individual States’ abilities to regulate firearms, reserving most of that power for Congress. They also took away constraints on enforcing the separation of church and state, the EPA’s right to regulate greenhouse gasses, and tribal sovereignty from the states. You don’t have to be an astute political savant to sort of see that gee-whiz there’s basically a one-to-one overlap between the court’s rulings and the Republican Party platform.
Crucially, six out of nine of the justices are current or former members of The Federalist Society. This is a right-wing libertarian group that promotes an “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution. Originalism meaning, essentially, that the Constitution must be interpreted based on what the people who wrote it believed at the time. Now, for most people this raises a few immediate red flags. Skipping the ones you’ve already thought of and moving on to one you may have missed—a lot of people wrote the Constitution and they had a lot of different opinions on things. How do you distill their collective knowledge and reveal the genuine meaning? Have we all agreed on the most accurate interpretation of The Bible yet? Furthermore, can a serious originalist tell us what James Madison and Alexander Hamilton thought about AI intrusion into the digital art world? Or even how airplanes should be regulated? How should we determine where to install solar power plants, Gunning Bedford, Jr. of Delaware? If you’re tempted to dig into the Federalist Papers to try and harvest some arcane knowledge about the Constitution and how the framers’ ideas could be wrapped around any of modern life’s completely alien banalities, I’d say don’t. This is not a serious ideology. This is a fake idea wrapped up in the prestige of wealthy law and marketing degrees, designed to appeal to gullible dweebs. The correct response to originalism is “I do not care.”
What really grosses me out is the irritating and pedantic “centrist” liberals who hold the Supreme Court up as an InstitutionTM! The holy mages of the court beyond our mortal realm are sublimely interpreting the law free from the influences of politics. Even if we’re dissatisfied with their rulings, to criticize The InstitutionTM is blasphemy. Of course this sort of deference defines the modern liberal who values credentialism and decorum beyond all ideological commitments. In fact the modern liberal doesn’t even believe in ideology. They are fully post-modern creatures. Blank slates who have rendered the world as it truly is, if only you had eyes to see. Justice Sotomayor, one of the liberal justices who admittedly disagrees with Thomas, praised his humanity during remarks at the American Constitution Society, saying he is someone who “literally knows every employee’s name, every one of them.” Even asks how their family is doing apparently! To me, this is insane. I regard this decorum with contempt. While lanyard clutching accommodationists in the Democratic Party are staring doe-eyed into the sun for some form or process to save us from a reactionary assault on civil liberties from a full third of the Federal government, the right wing is investigating teachers who screen movies with LGBT sub plots and are forcing women to deliver stillborn babies who asphyxiate themselves to death in their first and only hour of life. Good God man, look around! Get a hold of yourselves! What is at stake! Woe to you, you hypocrites! Look upon my work, ye mighty, and despair! I don’t know what to say except whatever it takes to knock some sense into you!In the waning years of the Roman Republic, as Pompey the Great was conquering Sicily, he was met with complaints by some of the locals saying he wasn’t allowed to conquer them due to some ancient law of the Romans. According to Plutarch, to this Pompey said “Will you not give up reading laws to us men girt with swords?” This is the posture of strength required from anyone serious about challenging the right and winning. We are fighting an organized war machine, beating down the doors of democracy with fascism and playing for keeps—and the Democratic Party simply has no plan to speak of or will to execute. For my part, I am begging regular Democrats and disaffected non-partisans, who I believe in, to start by abandoning The InstitutionTM. I gleefully diminish its legitimacy, and demand that the Executive and Legislative branches overrule or ignore it.