Opinion: Clarence Thomas deserves our contempt

Thirty-one years after his Supreme Court confirmation, Justice Clarence Thomas had his moment.

It was a long time ago. For most of those three decades, the ultra-conservative lawyer stood in the background, aloof, mostly silent. He wrote little about opinions and spoke less. In photographs, he always looked unhappy and embarrassed, as if he was acutely aware of what critics thought of him, especially many blacks, who saw him as a completely unworthy replacement for the first black justice, civil rights hero Thurgood Marshall.

Of course, it was President George W. Bush’s cynical racial calculation that brought Thomas to trial—he tried to appeal to hard-line conservatives but seemed progressive—but it’s Thomas who has long borne the brunt of our contempt.

He deserved it. As low-key as he was, Thomas nonetheless carried water for the far right, who have been exponentially emboldened by the Trump presidency and the Republican Party’s rapid transformation into a fact-denying cult with little use for sound reasoning, legal or otherwise. .

But it was always good for Thomas.

Now, at last, it attracts attention. His concurring opinion in a court decision overturning Rowe vs. Wade not only agrees, he calls on the right wing for more fascism, more abolition of rights not expressly articulated in 14th Amendment, rights, according to Thomas, are not protected by “due process”. Unlike his fellow conservative lawyers, Thomas takes a certain delight in kicking banks, a triumphalism that seems overtly Trumpian.

But most annoyingly, Thomas’ fame was made possible by another black man: President Obama.

It may seem incredible. In the public sphere, Obama and Thomas hardly have the same conversations. They are political opposites: Obama, a liberal, is the heir to the civil rights movement that culminated in the 1960s—the so-called Joshua generation—while the older Thomas joined a small group of black conservatives who, in the 1990s, have become favorites of the white right. (It must be said that Thomas is more radical than most of these conservatives, and as a Supreme Court Justice with a lifetime job, he wields the most power.)

Yet these two very different blacks play leading roles in a sordid narrative about the right wing’s attempt to seize power in American politics by any means necessary.

Let’s remember: Obama’s election in 2008. initiated a reactionary movement it found in the first black president an excuse for the outright racism that had long lived on the fringes. The hatred of Obama largely spawned the tea party, which in turn fueled a new, intense hatred of the federal government, led by Obama as president.

This extreme right-wing outrage effectively led to the collapse of Congress, because to cooperate with even moderate Democrats was to cooperate with an illegitimate black leader. Bipartisan lawmaking and the goal of serving a unified American society has become not something to strive for, but something to campaign against. This “take no prisoners” stance has infected electoral politics and other state institutions, including the Supreme Court. And here we are.

It is worth noting that the backlash against Obama’s rise to power was accompanied by an increase in white violence, represented by guns and bullets. sales that exploded in 2008. These sales never waned. Ryan Basse, a former gun company executive who wrote a whistleblower last year about the industry, called Obama’s election a gift to gun advocates that continues to bring. The slavish defense of the right to arms by the right, even in the midst of mass executions, led to Recent Supreme Court Decision to Repeal New York’s 100 Year Concealed Carry law. Call it Thomas’ warm-up.

The contrast between Obama and Thomas is far greater than the usual political differences between liberals and conservatives. As President Obama repeatedly called for a more perfect union; Thomas believes that the nation was perfect at its founding, despite the fact that the Constitution, which he reveres, allowed for slavery and disenfranchisement of natives, excluding women and non-landowners.

It’s one thing to be a black conservative who extols self-confidence and thinks the evidence for systemic racism is exaggerated is to embrace a certain ahistoricism that’s ingrained in broader American culture. It’s unfortunate, but understandable. But to be a black Supreme Court “original” judge who believes he must adhere to a document designed to exclude and dehumanize people like him is simply surreal.

It’s not about being conservative, it’s about challenging reality because you can. It’s about pandering to the worst kind of American arrogance, kind black people almost never get to play sports even though we don’t want to. Thomas makes the most of this opportunity.

All of us in this country will suffer the consequences of the arrogance of the Trump court – indeed, we have been suffering from them for some time now. Thomas’s career authoritarianism, fully unleashed in Rowe’s reversal, is just another outrageous moment in the stream of outrageous, unpleasant moments that is modern right-wing history.

The cold comfort is that Thomas clearly belongs to this story, and not to the history of black struggle and progress that is so important to the full realization of democratic America.

In all this chaos and uncertainty, there is something left to celebrate. Happy Fourth of July.

Erin Aubrey Kaplan is a contributing writer for Opinion.