Less of This The racist theory that inspired the Buffalo massacre
Make no mistake: The idea that apparently inspired a white supremacist who is accused of killing and injuring more than a dozen people last Saturday at a supermarket in Buffalo — that nefarious elites are using immigration to “replace” white Americans with pliant foreigners — is virtually indistinguishable from mainstream Republican rhetoric.
“This administration wants complete open borders,” said Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in an interview last month. “And you have to ask yourself, why? Is it really [that] they want to remake the demographics of America to ensure that they stay in power forever?”
“The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump’s wall,” said J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, in a campaign ad. “They censor us, but it doesn’t change the truth. Joe Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans, with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country.”
Hours after the shooting, a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona, Blake Masters, said on Twitter, “The Democrats want open borders so they can bring in and amnesty tens of millions of illegal aliens — that’s their electoral strategy.” And on Monday, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, Elise Stefanik of New York, tweeted that it was a “FACT that DEMOCRATS have been explicitly pushing for amnesty for years — specifically for political and electoral purposes.”
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In Memory The progressive lawyer who shaped LGBTQ activism
In his draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito blamed that 1973 abortion decision for sparking “a national controversy that has embittered our political culture for a half century.” He quoted Justice Antonin Scalia: “Roe fanned into life an issue that has inflamed our national politics in general, and has obscured with its smoke the selection of justices to this court in particular, ever since.”
As a matter of history, the idea that Roe ignited America’s culture wars is, at best, a distortion. The 7-2 decision was not nearly as politically divisive when it was decided as it is today. Catholics opposed it, but many conservative evangelicals did not; the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling for legal abortion in some circumstances in 1971, and then reaffirmed it in 1974. As the Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer has argued, evangelical leaders didn’t seize on Roe until the contemporary religious right began to coalesce at the end of the 1970s, largely in response to the I.R.S. stripping segregated Christian schools of their tax exemptions.
But even if Roe had let loose the forces ripping this country apart, its end still wouldn’t bring détente. Instead, the demise of Roe will exacerbate America’s antagonisms, creating more furious legal rifts between states than we’ve seen in modern times.
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More of This The Supreme Court needs a code of ethics
Bob Bauer is a professor of practice and distinguished scholar in residence at New York University School of Law and a former White House counsel to Barack Obama.
The extraordinary leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overruling Roe v. Wade has reignited a discussion about ethical responsibility in public life. The core concern of ethics is that, in deciding what to say and how to act, those with public roles must look to the public’s interests, not their own or those of a narrow class of allies. In a period of acute concern about the erosion of institutional norms, the protection of those norms depends on individual ethical choices by those in positions of public responsibility.
The Supreme Court, however, has so far refused to adopt an ethics code. The justices may consult the code in effect for all other federal judges, but they need not do so, and the choices they make are their own. What requirements they do apparently impose on their workforce, such as a duty of confidentiality, they do not make public. President Joe Biden’s Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States noted in its final report that “most public and private entities have adopted Codes of Conduct for their organizations and employees,” and that “it is not obvious why the Court is best served by an exemption from what so many consider best practice.” (I was a co-chair of that commission, but the views here are mine alone.)
The significance of the missing code is underscored by the curious, but also revealing, Court response to the leak. It issued a statement in two parts. One part represents the position of the Court as a whole, and another was a statement from Chief Justice John Roberts. The Court’s statement spoke to the nature of the document: a confirmation of authenticity and a disclaimer that the draft’s internal circulation was “routine” and “does not represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issues of the case.” Roberts addressed the question of the harm the leak had done, and added that he had instructed the Court’s marshal to investigate the source of the leak. Only in one respect does the Roberts statement add a fact not covered in the Court’s statement: He suggested that the leak came from the workforce, not the justices.
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Say It Louder The hypocrisy of Justice Thomas
Thanks to the unparalleled position of power he has held for three decades, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — perhaps the most distinctive voice in an institution that has the final say over many of the nation’s most fraught debates — has long enjoyed the luxury of knowing that 330 million Americans are bound to listen to him. The question is, does he ever listen to himself?
To go by his recent and repeated warnings about the dangers of a politicized court, it sure seems as if he doesn’t.
In a talk at Notre Dame last fall, Justice Thomas complained about what he considered unfair press coverage of the court’s decisions. “I think the media makes it sounds as though you are just always going right to your personal preference,” he said. That was before the nation learned that his wife, Virginia Thomas, a high-profile right-wing activist, had tradeddozens of text messages with the White House chief of staff as part of a frantic effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and keep Donald Trump in power. When the Supreme Court later rejected Mr. Trump’s request to block the release to Congress of White House records that may well include some of Ms. Thomas’s communications, Justice Thomas was the sole dissenter.
This month, at a judicial conference in Atlanta, he expressed concernthat declining respect for our institutions “bodes ill for a free society” and that young people today don’t have the same respect for the law as older generations. Those remarks came shortly after a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to the press — a shocking breach of Supreme Court protocol but, if the draft’s conclusion holds, only the most recent in a growing string of rulings that align suspiciously well with Republican political priorities.
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