In a wild election year, Democrats should remind Americans of our corrupt, unaccountable high court
Clarence Thomas makes for a perfect antagonist. A powerful and corrupt man who uses his position to take rights and freedoms away from everyday Americans, all while enriching himself. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, all of the Justices have received increased scrutiny in the press, but Thomas’ finances and personal life -- and how they’re intertwined with his tenure on the SCOTUS bench -- have received the kind of scrutiny normally reserved for candidates running for Senate or President.
Thomas would be a dream candidate to run against. It’s too bad he isn’t running for office because, besides what we’ve learned about Thomas in the press, his approval rating is low, and the attack ads write themselves. But what if Democrats ran against him anyway? And why stop with Clarence Thomas? What if outside Democratic groups spent resources casting Clarence Thomas and his anti-choice colleagues Alito, Kavanaugh, Coney Barrett, Gorsuch, and Roberts as villains? The SCOTUS Six.
Nominating Supreme Court Justices who would reverse Roe and do the Right’s bidding has been at the heart of the GOP’s political strategy for decades, and that strategy paid off. Arguably it helped fuel Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. McConnell’s refusal to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland left a vacancy on the court for months. Even if Republican voters weren’t thrilled at the prospect of Donald Trump, they knew his win would ensure another one of their people would have a lifetime appointment on the bench. Then-President Trump would go on to nominate three justices to the court, ensuring the majority needed to end Roe, an accomplishment he’s proud to take credit for.
Pro-choice voters didn’t always understand the importance of nominations or didn’t think that SCOTUS would ever actually overturn Roe. Now, that illusion has been shattered. The SCOTUS Six took away fundamental rights and freedoms from half the country almost immediately, ignoring the fact that most Americans supported legal abortion, and reproductive rights are a staple factor in healthy democracies around the world. Since Roe fell, abortion rights have won in every election, including in deep red states like Kansas and Kentucky. Abortion has also helped drive Democratic victories for candidates running for office at every level. It will likely continue to turn out voters in huge numbers this year.
But it doesn’t end there. This election is also about the fate of Democracy in the US, and the same SCOTUS Six that took away our rights and freedoms with the Roe reversal seems more than happy to further erode our democracy, disenfranchise voters, and help elites consolidate power. Narrative details that pair well with the SCOTUS majority’s Roe decision.
Oh, and if you want to turn out young voters, let’s not forget that the SCOTUS Six struck down Biden’s Student Loan forgiveness plan.
SCOTUS rulings will dominate the election news cycle this year. The court has allowed Idaho to enforce its abortion ban, even in medical emergencies, while it hears a case related to the law. So not only do women in Idaho not have the right to access reproductive care, but they also don’t have the right to live if that care is medically necessary. The Court will also hear a challenge to a long-approved pill commonly used to induce an abortion. Prosecutors and Trump’s defense lawyers have already asked SCOTUS to issue rulings in upcoming and ongoing cases, something I expect to happen repeatedly, as America is in the unprecedented situation of a former president facing multiple criminal charges in multiple jurisdictions.
Then there’s the election itself. SCOTUS has been involved in our presidential elections ever since Bush v. Gore, and in 2020, the Trump Campaign asked the court to intervene multiple times to stop the vote count and the certification of the election. My working theory about Trump is that the coup never stopped; his aim is to seize power rather than win an election, and of course, Trump will ask the Court to intervene at every opportunity. Already, one of Trump’s lawyers went on TV this week and made a veiled threat to Justice Kavanaugh related to The Court’s deciding on states that have chosen to remove Trump from the primary ballot.
Since SCOTUS will be front-page news, Democrats should be ready to pounce at every opportunity. Voters should be constantly reminded that the same Justices stripping away their rights and freedoms won’t even agree to a binding code of conduct for itself and only agree to a toothless one after months of news stories about corruption among its own ranks. Thomas and Alito should be singled out for using their position to enrich themselves and let’s not forget Thomas’ wife Ginny playing what appears to be an active role in Trump’s coup.
I don’t expect the Biden campaign or any of the down-ballot races to change their strategy and run against SCOTUS, but I do hope campaign committees and outside groups test this as a messaging stream. There’s data suggesting making the SCOTUC Six the villains of 2024 would resonate: a 2023 memo from Data for Progress says that half of the likely voters (not just Democratic) think that SCOTUS has made life worse for Americans in recent years, and a poll from Navigator Research found that 49% of Independent voters described SCOTUS as “corrupt” and “unacceptable.”
Americans deserve better than Clarence Thomas, his MAGA wife, and the right-wing billionaires who support him. We deserve a Court that aims to stop our country from becoming a fascist hellscape, not hasten the fall. Democrats haven’t always been great at connecting elections to the Supreme Court, but this year is the perfect opportunity to make that case to American voters.
Among the Thugs (The Baffler)
Brendan O’Connor writes a piece on the modern far-right reporting beat that is part oral history, part analysis and quotes many reporters whose work I’ve linked to in CARD over the years. I appreciate O’Connor’s takes on the consolidation of the beat as media outlets have folded and far-right ideology has become the openly mainstream politics of the right, though our takes on where things stand differ somewhat in the final paragraph.
Elections and Disinformation Are Colliding Like Never Before in 2024 (New York Times)
This is the best analysis I've seen so far of what democracies around the world are up against in 2024. There are at least 83 elections being held around the globe, technologies like generative AI make it easier for bad actors to spread to create manipulation campaigns, and tech companies have rolled back their policies and gutted trust and safety teams.
A Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Says 'We're Going to Lose This Battle' for Democracy to 'a Bunch of Insurrectionists' if Public Officials Don't Speak Out About the Threats They've Received (Business Insider)
I’m grateful to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jill Karofsky for saying this clearly and tying it to the fight for democracy. It’s a brave but necessary thing to do, especially when such statements might still be seen as political (sigh.)
We have another update on the Substack Against Nazis campaign. After attempting to work with Substack behind the scenes and getting played by Substack’s leadership team for their troubles, Platformer has opted to leave the platform. The publication joins a growing list of users leaving Substack, including Marisa Kabas, organizer of the open letter.
It’s depressing but not surprising that Substack chose Nazis over the vast majority of its users. We’ve seen this story before and know how it usually ends.
That’s all from me this week. Please enjoy this clip from Bluey as a treat. See you again next Sunday.