Civil rights

Expect Clarence Thomas to continue reversing civil rights gains

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas sits with his wife and conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas while waiting to speak at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC | Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty

OWith the opening of the new session of the United States Supreme Court on October 3, 2022, Clarence Thomas is arguably the most powerful judge in the highest court in the land.

In 1991, after Thomas became an associate judge and only the second African American to do so, his power was unlikely to almost anyone but him and his wife. Virginia “Ginni” Thomas.

He received confirmation from the US Senate despite the lawyer Anita Hill’s explosive allegations of workplace sexual harassment against him.

Today Thomas rarely speaks during argumentbut he communicates substantially through his prolific written opinions that reflect a complicated mix of caring, racial pride, and the original intent of America’s Founding Fathers.

He is not a chief justice. John Robert Jr. is.

But with nearly 31 years of service from Thomas, he is the longest serving judge and on track to have the longest judicial tenure ever.

June Jordanpioneering poet and cultural commentator, observed in 1991, when President George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas, people “focused on who the nominee was rather than what he did and will do.”

As a scholar of political theory and black politicsI argue that we have not learned from this vital idea.

Conservative activism

Thomas’ serve is under increasing scrutiny as his wife, a conservative activist, testified Sept. 27, 2022, before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that she still believes in false claims that the 2020 election was rigged against Donald Trump.

According to documents obtained by this committee, Ginni Thomas was helped coordinate efforts keep former president donald trump in the office. His efforts included sending e-mails not only to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows but also state officials from Arizona and Wisconsin.

The January 6 committee is particularly concerned about Thomas’ testimony about his email correspondence with John Eastmanher husband’s former lawyer, who is considered the legal architect of Trump’s latest attempt to overthrow the 2020 election.

In my view, the intertwined lives of Clarence and Ginni Thomas highlight a distressing underside of their personal union: the blurring of their professional and personal lives, which has had the appearance of fracturing the independence of the executive and judicial branches of government. .

In this light, Thomas’ only dissent in the case involving Trump’s handing over of documents to the January 6 committee is all the more alarming.

“What He Has Done and What He Will Do”

Clarence Thomas cultivated a distinct judicial philosophy and view of the world – and a view of his place in it.

From what can be gleaned from his own writings and speeches, his vision stems from black nationalism, capitalism, conservatism, originalism and its own interpretations of the law.

Since Thomas’s confirmation, his ideas and decisions have attracted many critics.

The January 6 Committee interviews conservative activist Ginni Thomas

Virginia Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, returns to a closed meeting with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill on September 29, 2022, in Washington, DC | Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty

But his interpretations of the law are now at the center of High Court case law.

In his concurring opinion of the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Thomas argued that the court should reconsider reversing other related landmark decisions, including access to contraception in Griswold v. ConnecticutLGBTQ+ sexual behavior and sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and gay marriage in Oberfell v. Hodges.

In short, Thomas’ sentiments reveal a broader ultraconservative agenda to roll back the social and political gains that marginalized communities have won since the 1960s.

The rulings in those cases, Thomas wrote, relied on the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and “were patently wrong rulings.”

“In future cases”, Thomas explained“we should reconsider all of the substantive due process precedents of this Court, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell…we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

Other recent Supreme Court decisionson Second Amendment Rights, Miranda Rights, Campaign Finance Regulations and tribal sovereigntyare also proof of Thomas’ impact on the highest court in the land.

The long game

In his memoirs and public speechThomas identifies as a self-made man.

Although he has benefited from affirmative action programs — and the color of his skin played a role in his Supreme Court nomination — Thomas has been adamantly opposed to such efforts to address past racial discrimination. Like other notable black conservatives, Thomas argues that group-based preferences reward those who seek government largesse rather than individual initiative.

With the exception of guidance from Catholic Church institutions and his grandfather Myers Anderson, Thomas says he earned his accomplishments through effort, hard work, and his own initiative.

In a 1998 speech, Thomas foreshadowed its judicial independence and clarified that his appearance before the National Bar Association, the nation’s largest black legal association, was not intended to defend his conservative views — or further anger his critics.

“But rather,” he explained, “to assert my right to think for myself, to refuse to have my ideas assigned to me as if I were an intellectual slave because I am black.”

“I come to affirm that I am a man, free to think for myself and to do what I want,” continued Thomas. “I have come to affirm that I am a judge and I will not be consigned to the unchallenged opinions of others. But more than that, I came to say, isn’t it time to move on? »

But like many of Thomas’ complexities, his own self-taught account twists the ideas of the first prominent black Republican who remains one of his intellectual heroesFrederick Douglassthe statesman, abolitionist and fugitive ex-slave whose portrait hangs on the wall of Thomas’ office.

But in “Self-taught men», a speech he first gave in 1859. Douglass disagreed with the idea that achievements result solely from individual elevation.

“Strictly speaking,” wrote Douglass, “there are no men in the world who have made themselves. This term implies an individual independence of past and present that can never exist.

United States Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas (R), flan

Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, flanked by his wife Virginia, waits to reopen his testimony, October 12, 1991, before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC on allegations of sexual harassment. | Credit: JENNIFER K. LAW/Getty

law against the people

Thomas’ view of the law is rooted in the doctrine of originalism of an immutable rather than a living American Constitution.

Since the Declaration of Independence in 1776, modern America for Thomas has been primarily a republic, where the laws are made for the people through their elected representatives. Unlike a pure democracy, where the people vote directly and the majority rules, minority rights are protected in a republic.

Dating back to ancient Rome, the history of republicanism is a story of denouncing domination, rejecting slavery and defending freedom.

However, in my opinion, American republicanism has a downside: its long-standing basis of inequality who never wanted his core ideals to apply beyond a few.

Thomas asserts consistency with the original founding of America.

In my view, Thomas’ perilous conservative activism goes against a fundamental tenet of United States Constitution – « to form a more perfect union.

Thomas’ decisions reveal a broader ultraconservative agenda to roll back the social and political gains that marginalized communities have won since the 1960s.

neil robertpolitical science teacher, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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