The Final Wedge Cleaving Liberals from Progressives: Justice Alito's Speech and the "Two Minutes' Hate" Reaction.
"If you step on my foot, don't get angry when I . . . say 'Ouch!'" -- Minister Don Muhammad
When I was a campus ACLU leader in the 80s and 90s, I agreed with everything U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel J. Alito said in his speech to the Federalist Society last week. (Transcript here; video here, substance of speech starts at 17:30.) I still do. I realized even back then that some of my farther-left collaborators didn't agree with all of it, just most of it. But now, many of them don't agree with hardly any of it, especially suddenly controversial ideas like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and an independent judiciary. In case there was any doubt, they made that clear in their instant reactions to Justice Alito's speech. No longer "liberals," they now call themselves "progressives," after the late-1800s-early-1900s reformers who declared that democracy and constitutional limited government were outmoded, and that a nonpartisan expert elite should rule instead.
In college, we were taught what was called a "Marxist" critique of the "progressives": Whether foolishly or intentionally, they viewed their own cultural and economic elite interests as impartial, non-political, universal, benevolent and scientific. They were politically, culturally and economically anti-democratic. Back in the 1970s and 80s, it was a liberal and generational imperative to make sure that everything was done absolutely democratically and inclusively. But sometime in the 90s, this was replaced by a new prime directive: to be in harmony with "the international community" of unelected, unaccountable elites.
So the Progressives are back now, in force, and apparently trying to prove the truth and urgency of everything Justice Alito said about them. Kind of like threatening violence against someone who calls you violent. He criticized the growing intolerance of even mainstream beliefs, and thousands of tweeters and Facebookers responded by calling for him to be impeached for it. He criticized five Senators who had openly threatened to "restructure" the Court* if it did not rule the way they wanted, pointedly mentioning a foreign judge who told him about having judicial independence on paper, but with a tank pointing at his courthouse -- and Senators responded with more threats, saying he shouldn't be allowed to criticize them because that's "political." ( *Well, they now say they didn't say "restructure," their amicus brief just happened to quote a poll of people who said the court should be "restructured.")
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: "Supreme Court Justices aren't supposed to be political hacks. This right-wing speech is nakedly partisan. My anti-corruption bill restores some integrity to our Court by forcing Justices to follow the ethics rules other federal judges follow." Looking at her summary of the bill, that may be the only thing the bill does that is harmless or constitutional -- for now. But what she probably intended it to impose is a proposed reform to the judicial ethics rules, now withdrawn (for now), banning judges from the Federalist Society but not the American Bar Association. Because of course, in the fine old Progressive tradition, the ABA considers itself nonpolitical while advocating for thousands of left-wing public policies.
Los Angeles Congressman Jimmy Gomez tweeted, "Homophobic rhetoric isn’t a matter of free speech. It’s a matter of hate speech. These are stunning, harmful words from Justice Alito." To be clear exactly what he was calling homophobic, Constitutionally-unprotected "hate speech," he quoted the Justice: “'You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman' any more, Justice Alito said. 'Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.'”
Which part of that do Congressman Gomez and the other critics even disagree with? That "you can't say" it? That the vast majority agreed with it until recently? That it's considered bigotry? If anyone would disagree with that, wouldn't it be the "religious right"? Are they still around?
Many of the instant reactions seemed to be reacting to what people imagined Alito might say, not anything he actually said. For example, that he was against masks and shutdowns. Some headlines quoted his sentence, "The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty," as if that meant that he must be denouncing all such restrictions, not just stating a universally-recognized historical fact. Actually, he criticized a recent court decision that let a state single out churches for much stricter limits than casinos and other businesses. And more broadly, he warned that the now-necessary restrictions, and the executive branch's authority to impose them, were still subject to judicial review, and should not become permanent once the pandemic is over. The Young Turks, oddly, played a clip that included him saying that he was not criticizing most of the restrictions, and only questioning the legality of a very few of them, but then they spent ten minutes responding as if he had criticized mask mandates, calling him "insanely irresponsible."
An article titled "Jurists Shocked by Justice Alito's 'Wildly Inappropriate' Attack on LGBTQ Equality, Reproductive Rights, and More" merely played a game with the common versus the obscure meanings of the word "jurist" --
It quoted no judges, only two prominent legal journalists with law degrees, one lawyer/commentator, one law professor/former prosecutor, and the director of strategy at a "legal advocacy group." People certainly qualified to opine, but whose job is politics and advocacy -- very different from the impartial eminence "jurist" connotes.
Journalists who know better, or their editors who at least officially don't, began piling wild-eyed adjectives and warlike metaphors onto sometimes otherwise objective and balanced stories about the speech. CNN called it "ireful ... infuriated" with a "gnashing ideological tone ...". Roll Call, more subdued, said he "stepped into the ring ... to throw a few punches ..." and "targeted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse." The New York Times called it "unusually caustic and politically tinged," but admitted that it did not violate any rules and reflected his already published "judicial opinions, which have lately been marked by bitterness and grievance," and that several experts "said it was unexceptional for justices to describe positions they had already taken in their judicial work."
Slate, though, was in a class by itself, taking great pains to misrepresent the speech as unethical. It led with "Grievance-Laden, Ultrapartisan" ... "railed against COVID restrictions, same-sex marriage, abortion" [uh, no, he didn't actually criticize any of those, except for the restriction that singled out churches] and put an URL ending in "insane.html" on its article. "These comments revealed early on that Alito would not be abiding by the usual ethics rules, which require judges to remain impartial and avoid any appearance of bias" ... "a bitter partisan out to settle scores with the left. Flouting his ethical obligations, Alito waded into fierce political debates" ... "notoriously cranky, but he seemed to be in relatively good spirits ...".
Hundreds of Facebook commenters immediately called for impeaching him, some saying to throw in the Black guy while we're at it. Many claimed that the speech "revealed his bias," and they really seemed to believe that now that he had publicly revealed his beliefs about the issues he has ruled on, that that actually justified impeaching him, or demanding his resignation. Some said that he must be gay, sometimes using pretty graphic terms. Some demanded that the Federalist Society, too, must be abolished. Basically, there are a lot of fascists (I'm sorry, I mean "progressives") out there who believe -- or who pretend to believe so hard that they may actually come to believe -- that having conservative, libertarian, or mainstream-liberal-but-not-progressive beliefs should legally disqualify one from public office, and that actually advocating or working to implement such beliefs should be illegal.
I wonder what would happen if Senator Warren and the rest of the ProgMob found out that judges and Justices not only give speeches about the Bill of Rights and the need for an independent judiciary, and bristle at threats from politicians -- they actually write long opinions about every case they decide, even ones that involve political or controversial ideas, and the government actually publishes them! And they've been getting away with it for almost 700 years!
Clarification: was joke. Senator Warren was a professor at America's best law school, so of course she knows better. She just thinks that if enough of us pretend not to, for just long enough, we can pretend to rationalize court-packing by claiming the other side broke all the norms and packed the court first. And as a progressive, she honestly believes that only other people have ideologies or politics.
Before I had even finished watching the speech, my Facebook filled up with progressives suddenly convincing themselves that of course, we have always known that Justices aren't allowed to make speeches about Constitutional issues, evidently suppressing all their memories of a once-celebrated Justice named Ginsburg:
- "How can anyone have a fair hearing in front of this justice? He does not belong on the Supreme court. Who can take him on?"
- "He has abdicated his credibility and moral authority as a judge and must resign."
- "He doesn't even pretend to be impartial. Judicial sleeze."
- "Get rid of the Federalist Society."
- "They should never be allowed to put there personal ideas out publicly ...."
- "Omg....wow....what a nutcase! ... He, along with Trump, should be charged with murder for all these deaths."
- "Alito should be removed from the bench. He is making a political statement with his words about infringement of freedom."
- "Alito Outs Himself as Total Whacko."
- "He must recuse himself on all arguments involving these issues. He has revealed his bias!!"
- "Start the Impeachment process immediately. His ideas are too bias for his position."
- "Another one who could use a good boot in the neck."
- "Alito outs himself as full-on partisan crusader." -- U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
- "Such prejudicial opinions should disqualify him to sit as a Supreme Court Justice."
- "Time for partisan Supreme Court justices to be elected by the people rather than appointed for life."
- "Alito should be censured and removed from the Court. He violates his position."
- "Republicanism is a mental and social disorder. Alito needs to be impeached for speaking to a Republican Nazi organization like the "Federalist Society." They should be declared a domestic terrorist organization like the GOP, NRA, and a dozen others."
- "It shouldn’t be permissible for a sitting Supreme Court (or any other) justice to speak to radical organizations like the Federalist Society."
- "Appalling and sickening ... There really should be ways to remove justices with mindsets that are contrary to the very core of the Supreme Court's Constitutionally mandated role."
- "When a Chief Justice in the Supreme Court feels like he has to publicly make a political statement, he should lose his seat. That is not seperation of Church & State."
- "Religion is a lifestyle choice. Sexuality isn't."
- "'Justice Alito's wildly inappropriate speech is a reminder that Republicans have packed the Supreme Court with extremist politicians in robes -- and they're planning a partisan revenge tour,' said Aaron Belkin, director of Take Back the Court, a progressive group advocating court expansion."
- "'If there were enforceable recusal standards at the high court, this would be a ripe opportunity for a motion to disqualify,' said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan independent watchdog group ..."
- "How can he continue on the court with such a publicly revealed bios! I believe this is impeachable for an associate justice!"
- "Diarrhea of the mouth with prejudice aplenty!"
- "He needs to get the fuck out of OUR Supreme Court!"