The recent Supreme Court leak has unveiled a politically motivated court pushing an agenda that doesn’t represent legal precedent, majority opinion, or even democratic values. This is a travesty to the nation, but not a surprising one. For decades, right wing conservatives have identified the court system as the primary tool to solidify their illiberal, nigh-authoritarian rule. It is only since the ascent of the myth of Reagan (more than the man himself) and the racist blowback from electing the first black president in Barack Obama, that the factions of right-wing conservatism united behind an orange tinted MAGA campaign. Minority rule was their only path to success, and history shows that they have many moves left to play.
Last December the Supreme Court of the United States heard the arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. On May 2nd, Justice Samuel Alito’s initial draft of the majority opinion in the case was leaked to Politico. The opinion is a grotesque politically motivated commitment to remove women from the Constitution. Stating the 14th amendment doesn’t protect any right that isn’t “deeply rooted in the constitution.” Each of the 4 judges currently rumored to be on Alito’s side of the vote (and Alito himself) all swore under oath an intention to preserve Roe v. Wade during their nomination hearings. A quick history lesson can show you there will be many more rights they deem aren’t ‘deeply rooted.’
Enter The New Era of Republican Minority Rule
Since the shocking leak, outrage has poured out on both sides. Republicans are outraged at the leak itself, attempting to move the goalposts from the actual story. The rest of America is questioning how much lower the conservatives justices are willing to go. John Ganz summarized the core realization that occurred to many Americans after Justice Alito’s leak:
We like to imagine democracy dying in a dramatic coup, a successful version of January 6, but conservatives, true to their name, prefer to yield power through the oldest and most hallowed forms of oligarchy rather than through rowdy demagogues. We’re now asked to politely ignore that they accomplished their majority in this august body through two elections where their candidates received a minority of the vote: one which was practically stolen through legal wrangling in the very same court and the other where their candidate was clearly an aspirant dictator and would-be destroyer of the constitutional order they supposedly cherish. There is absolutely no norm or precedent they feel obliged to respect in the pursuit of power, but when the shoe is on the other foot, they intone gravely about the need for legitimacy and “respecting our institutions.
And Heather Cox Richardson followed up, “This opens the door to similar attacks on constitutional rights previously established by the Supreme Court: the right to use birth control, marry regardless of race and gender lines, and engage in sexual intimacy between consenting adults.”
The country should absolutely be ready for Republicans to use their oppressive politics through their ill-gotten minority rule. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post stated, “This is religious tyranny…in which the right seeks to break through all restraints on government power in an effort to establish a society that aligns with a minority view of America as a White, Christian country.” And it is important to clarify that this is not a religious tyranny born in this generation. It has been a decades-long project of varying far-right organizations. John Huntington’s book Far Right Vanguard depicts the struggle of far-right groups in the first half of the twentieth century and the difficulty finding their footing, torn between the two party system and failed attempts to create a successful third option.
Those struggles ended when Ronald Reagan welcomed the far-right with open arms. Cox Richardson summarizes:
The attempt to split the current Republican Party into a moderate wing and a radical wing is a dramatic revision of Republican Party history. In fact, moderate Republicans, who believed that the government had a role to play in regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure, were purged from the party in the 1990s, when power shifted to leaders who believed that the country worked best when businessmen could organize the economy without meddling from government bureaucrats. Because their position was always to cut taxes and pare back the government, they were absolutists, unwilling to compromise with Democrats.
Now those extremists have themselves split into a business wing that wants small government to leave it alone and a theocratic wing that wants a strong government to enforce Christian beliefs on the country, but neither is moderate or willing to reach across the aisle and compromise with Democrats
After Reagan, Newt Gingrich and members of the right wing media began to push out the older Republican moderates. By the time a Black man was elected president, there was no more room for moderation.
Trump, as president, certainly made everything worse. Nominating three justices bred to legislate from the bench will haunt our nation for generations. Trump as a symbol to unify the far-right means our nation may not last generations. President Biden called it out, “This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in American history.” Can we predict what the MAGA crowd will go after next? While they’re quite fickle in their day-to-day outrage it can be difficult to discern a coherent message outside of “Own the libs.”
History Can Show What’s Next
Historians like Huntington and Cox Richardson know to look at the issues the far-right chased throughout the twentieth century. Cox Richardson warns, “The right wing seems to see this as its moment to accomplish the imposition of religious restrictions they had previously only dreamed of achieving. Talk of ending gay marriage, recriminalizing homosexuality, undermining public schools, and so on, is animating the radical right. Media stories have noted that most democratic countries have, in fact, been expanding reproductive rights. Going the opposite direction is a sign of rising authoritarianism. The United States shares that distinction right now with Poland and Nicaragua.”
Huntington traced the web of right-wing groups throughout the twentieth century. Religious organizations ran on forcing a narrow interpretation of the bible onto our public society. Libertarian groups wanted to remove all government oversight from the upper class. Racist organizations fought to preserve the segregation of the races. These groups fought in elections, in courts, and occasionally in schools. These once splintered groups congealed into a blob of hate in the twenty first century. They found how to manipulate our election system and packed the courts. Schools will continue to be a major battleground in the coming years.
The libertarians are more than happy to partner with the religious extremists if it means they can promote their naive business theory, the white supremacy that forms the cornerstone of their philosophy. Bryan Metzger of Business Insider asked Republican senators if they believed Obergefell v Hodges could be endangered now that Roe has been thrown out, “None gave a clear yes or no answer, and several outright declined to comment.” They may be too scared to admit what’s coming and have yet to admit it to themselves. That cowardice will certainly continue as they sell our nation out to authoritarians.