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(52,101 posts)
Fri May 17, 2024, 04:37 PM May 17

Lithwick & Stern: The Smallest Justice Who Ever Lived


We have known for some time now that the current Supreme Court is not comprised of “conservatives” and “liberals,” or even “jurists” and “reactionaries.” It has split into those who care about the future of the court and the country, and those who do not.

Because the group that cares is much larger than the one that doesn’t, its members could have at any time done many things to signal to the latter group —and we can go ahead and name them, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito—that accepting lavish, undisclosed gifts and vacations from billionaire donors who have interests before the court was a rolling, public-confidence-and-democracy-threatening disaster. They said nothing, even as this sordid conduct degraded the nation’s highest court, for many of the reasons powerful individuals often say nothing: To protect the institution at large; to preserve the long-tarnished myth of a collegial court; and because, when there is nothing to be done about it anyhow, what’s the point?

In a sense, then, nobody should be all that surprised by Jodi Kantor’s bombshell reporting on Thursday night about the upside-down flag that hung outside the Alitos’ home in suburban Virginia in the days after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The symbol of support for the attempted coup flew during a time when the court was considering cases seeking to set aside the election results. Alito has confirmed that this flag display happened. Multiple neighbors and Supreme Court employees have corroborated the reporting.

We can certainly quibble (and Alito’s defenders surely will) about whether an upside-down flag really represents “Stop the Steal,” as Kantor’s experts affirm, or some other message of peace and goodwill. We can and will debate over Alito’s claim that his wife hoisted the flag because one of the neighbors hurt their feelings (so, #feminism). But the saddest and most arresting part of this endless downward spiral for the seven jurists who should know better, and the two who do not, is not that they don’t care about what they are doing to the court—it’s how pitifully, shabbily small these ride-or-die political battles really are.

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