You may not be interested in Clarence Thomas, but Clarence Thomas is interested in you

In The New Yorker, I take on Clarence Thomas’s contributions to this last term of the Supreme Court:

The most powerful Black man in America, Thomas is also our most symptomatic public intellectual, setting out a terrifying vision of race, rights, and violence that’s fast becoming a description of everyday life. It’s no longer a matter of Clarence Thomas’s Court. Increasingly, it’s Clarence Thomas’s America.

I focus on the abortion and gun rights decisions, and try to limn their meaning for our moment.

In the face of a state that won’t do anything about climate change, economic inequality, personal debt, voting rights, and women’s rights, it’s no wonder that an increasing portion of the population, across all racesgenders, and beliefs, have determined that the best way to protect themselves, and their families, is by getting a gun. A society with no rights, no freedoms, except for those you claim yourself—this was always Thomas’s vision of the world. Now, for many Americans, it is the only one available. 

You can read the whole piece here.

Back to reading about Hayek, Vienna, and the Austrian School.


  1. Jonnybutter July 10, 2022 at 3:04 pm | #

    Very powerful remix/update of the book. I hope a lot of nice liberals read it and Thomas haunts their dreams. He haunts the country already.

  2. Israel Romero July 12, 2022 at 7:30 pm | #

    My take on Clarence Thomas is that he’s essentially a black nationalist who hates White America and that up to this point wanted to make life for the black community so hard socially and politically they would rise up in violent revolt to fight for a Black nation-state. Not having achieved that goal he’s devolved to a man who will settle for seeing the world burn.

  3. John MacLean July 14, 2022 at 7:55 am | #

    Over the winter I read “Waiting For First Light” by Romeo Dallaire. I recall him describing walking home with a bottle of whisky, and in a second, at his apartment, discovering his collection of pills, and flushing them all down. The next day he discovered that he couldn’t even kill himself. In group meetings I’ve spoken about how I surround myself with books and a few paintings, not drugs and guns.

  4. LFC July 15, 2022 at 4:48 pm | #

    I’ve read quickly the piece “The Self-Fulfilling Prophecies of Clarence Thomas.” (Have also read Corey’s book on Thomas.)

    I don’t disagree much with the piece but I would add something to it: what sets Thomas, despite his increasing influence, apart from his colleagues is not only that he would completely discard substantive due process, not only that he would resurrect the privileges-and-immunities clause (and not only his emphasis on the role of the armed male Black defender of the Black community).

    What also sets Thomas apart is that he doesn’t believe in stare decisis. He doesn’t care what the Court has said in the past (except perhaps when he has to marshall precedents because he’s writing a majority opinion). All the other Justices at least pretend to adhere to stare decisis. So, for instance, Alito in Dobbs tried to argue that his opinion did not threaten Obergefell, Griswold, etc. (even though it does). Alito also had a whole section attempting to reconcile his overruling Roe and Casey with the doctrine of stare decisis, or rather showing that the factors for ignoring stare decisis were met. Thomas, by contrast, says that *any* opinion he thinks is basically wrong should be overruled.

    Even if you think the Supreme Court is a “super-legislature,” the Justices still go through this dance of trying to show that they operate within a set of constraints. The more concerned a Justice is with how the Court is perceived by the public, probably the more committed to doing this dance they will be. That’s, for instance, why Roberts didn’t join Alito’s Dobbs opinion. Thomas is mostly uninterested in how the public perceives the Court; he’s interested in interpreting the Constitution in the way that he thinks is correct, even if it means overruling reams of decisions.

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