Tag: Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas on the One-Party State that is our Two-Party System

From Clarence Thomas’s dissent in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003): The joint opinion also places a substantial amount of weight on the fact that “in 1996 and 2000, more than half of the top 50 soft-money donors gave substantial sums to both major national parties,” and suggests that this fact “leav[es] room for no other conclusion but that these donors were seeking influence, or avoiding retaliation, rather than promoting any particular ideology.”Ante, at 38 (emphasis in original). But that is not necessarily the case. The two major parties are not perfect ideological opposites, and supporters or opponents of certain policies or ideas might find substantial overlap between the two parties. If donors feel that both major parties are in general agreement […]

From Whitney Houston to Obergefell: Clarence Thomas on Human Dignity

Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas: What she remembered most vividly, however, was the way [Clarence] Thomas woke up each morning. He had a theme song which he would play at high volume in his room at the start of every day, “kind of like a mantra.” “What’s that?” she remembered asking [Gil] Hardy [Clarence Thomas’s roommate] when she was first rocked out of bed by it at an early hour. “Oh, that’s just Clarence,” Hardy replied with a laugh. “It’s his theme song.” The song, “The Greatest Love of All,” was a pop anthem celebrating self-love rereleased by Whitney Houston. Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son: I’d heard the song many times, but it had […]

The Liberating Power of the Dismal Science

I’m reading Thomas Sowell’s Race and Economics (1975), which had a major influence on Clarence Thomas. Sowell is a black conservative economist. In his chapter on slavery, Sowell writes: Although a slave-owner’s power to punish a slave was virtually unlimited by either law or custom, there were economic limits on the profits to be derived in this way. In many respects unremarkable, the passage nevertheless gives a sense of what a disenchanted black radical like Thomas, searching in the 1970s for a way past the impasse of the Black Freedom movements, might have found in Sowell’s conservative and economistic mode of thinking. For what Sowell is suggesting is that the one power that stood above or beyond that of the white slaveholder was the power of economics itself. While law […]

Fight Racism. Confirm Clarence Thomas. (Updated)

I’ve been reading Jill Abramson’s and Jane Mayer’s Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, the definitive account of Thomas’s confirmation battle, which came out in 1994. Here are eight things I’ve learned from it. Among the many surprises of the book is how men and women who were connected to the confirmation battle, or to Thomas and/or Anita Hill, and who were little known at the time, would go on to become fixtures of and issues in our contemporary politics and culture. 1. Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004, was Clarence Thomas’s classmate at Holy Cross. They had long conversations. 2. Clarence Thomas was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for eight years. When Bush […]

Clarence Thomas’s Counterrevolution

What follows is the talk I gave at the University of Washington this past weekend on my paper about Clarence Thomas: “Smiling Faces Tell Lies: Pessimism, Originalism, and Capitalism in the Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas.” The paper is still incomplete. I only managed to write about Thomas’s theories of racism and how they intersect with his philosophy of constitutional interpretation. In the coming months, I intend to expand the paper to talk about Thomas’s views on capitalism, and how they inform his jurisprudence about the Commerce Clause, the Takings Clause, and more. Ultimately, this paper will be published by the University of Chicago Press in a volume on African-American political thought, edited by Melvin Rogers and Jack Turner. Other contributors […]

Clarence X?

Malcolm X:  The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox. Clarence Thomas: I was bitter toward the white bigots whom I held responsible for the unjust treatment of blacks, but even more bitter toward those […]

Speaking on Clarence Thomas at the University of Washington

On Saturday, May 3, I’m going to be presenting a paper on Clarence Thomas at the University of Washington. It’s part of a conference on African-American Political Thought: Past and Present. The conference has an amazing line-up: Michael Dawson on Marcus Garvey, Nikhil Singh on Malcolm X, Cedric Johnson on Huey Newton, Lawrie Balfour on Toni Morrison, Melvin Rogers on David Walker, Naomi Murakawa on Ida B. Wells, and many more. My paper is called “Smiling Faces Tell Lies: Pessimism, Originalism, and Capitalism in the Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas.” Here’s the nut graf: It’s not surprising that Clarence Thomas is black and conservative. From Burke to Ayn Rand, conservatism has been the work of outsiders and upstarts, hailing from the […]

Why Does the Winger Whine? What Does the Winger Want?

At National Review Online, Jonathan Adler writes: Over at the progressive blog, Crooked Timber, Corey Robin lists “Eleven Things You Did Not Know About Clarence Thomas.”  The items Robin lists shouldn’t surprise avid court watchers, or others who have paid much attention to the conservative justice.  Judging from the comments, however, several of the items were quite a revelation to CT’s readership.  I can only imagine the surprise if Robin had blogged on Justice Thomas’s jurisprudence, further challenging the caricature of Clarence Thomas that continues to dominate so much liberal commentary about him. Actually, a fair number of commenters at CT claimed not to be surprised by these revelations at all. In any event, you’d think Adler would have been pleased […]

Eleven Things You Did Not Know About Clarence Thomas

1. The first time Clarence Thomas went to DC, it was to protest the Vietnam War. 2. Clarence Thomas grew up a stone’s throw from the Moon River that Audrey Hepburn sang about in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 3. In the 1970s, Clarence Thomas kept a Confederate flag on his desk. [Correction: It was the Georgia State flag, which features quite prominently the Confederate stars and bars. It was a large flag, apparently, and he hung it over his desk.] 4. There’s a law review article about Clarence Thomas called “Clarence X?: The Black Nationalist Behind Justice Thomas’s Constitutionalism.” 5. Clarence Thomas attended antiwar rallies in Boston where he called for the release of Angela Davis and Erica Huggins. 6. Clarence […]

Silence and Segregation: On Clarence Thomas as a Lacanian Performance Artist

Toward the end of his life the legendary French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan would lead his seminars in almost absolute silence. Though he suffered from some kind of aphasia, Lacan’s silences are often held to signify more than silence. In keeping with his theory, they mark a presence. Silence speaks. I thought of Lacan when I read this statement from Clarence Thomas, which Jonathan Chait flagged the other day. My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up. Now, name a day […]

Diva of Disdain: Justice Scalia in Three Parts

Thanks to his rant from the bench yesterday—about the Arizona immigration law, which the Supreme Court mostly struck down—Justice Scalia is back in the news. But where many on the left see Scalia as a partisan hack, who twists the Constitution into a pretzel to get the result he wants, I’m more impressed by the  underlying consistency of his jurisprudence. That’s not to say he’s never inconsistent, but hackery is not his main problem. But to see the problem, you have to have a better sense of the man and his vision. In The Reactionary Mind, I devoted a chapter to that question. Last fall, I excerpted the introduction to that chapter. Given all the attention now being paid to […]

Our Negroes and Theirs: When Ann Coulter Tells the Truth, It’s Worth Listening to Her

Everyone’s going after Anne Coulter—and rightly so—for her racist comments yesterday on the “Hannity” show. Asked why liberals and Democrats are up in arms over the sexual harassment allegations that have been leveled against GOP candidate Herman Cain, Coulter said: Our blacks are so much better than their blacks.  To become a black Republican, you don’t just roll into it. You’re not going with the flow… That “our blacks” is especially gruesome. Sounds like the proprietary claim a fancy housewife would make, ca. 1960 (or 1860), about her black maid: “my girl” or something like that. But if you can suspend disbelief—or disgust— for a minute, there’s something in what Coulter is saying that’s worth paying attention to for it […]

I Got a Crush on You

With this post, I start an occasional (very occasional) series on this blog, which will feature brief excerpts from The Reactionary Mind. This excerpt is from chapter six, “Affirmative Action Baby,” which profiles the thought and theory of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Many think of Scalia as either a social conservative or fussy originalist. I argue that he’s neither. He’s something far stranger, more wild: one part Nietzschean, one part Social Darwinist, one part post-modernist, and two parts crazy.     Next to Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia is the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court. He also loves the television show 24. “Boy, those early seasons,” he tells his biographer, “I’d be up to two o’clock, because […]