And The Evidence Mounts….

Yesterday, I posted about the 2018 book How Democracies Die. My “take-aways” were twofold: first, the authors located the source of today’s efforts to install an autocracy in the racism that has long been identified as America’s “original sin,” and second, they identified warning signs of institutional and normative breakdown.

Several things have changed since 2018, of course, and some of those changes have been positive. Biden’s victory in 2020–a resounding popular victory despite the desperate efforts of Trump and MAGA voters to de-legitimize it–and the failure of the much-anticipated “Red wave” in 2022 come immediately to mind. But other signs are more ominous–especially the pathetic acquiescence of elected Republicans to Trump’s and the far-Right’s increasingly public racism, and the unprecedented and blatantly-partisan behavior of members of the judiciary.

Two examples from just the past week.

The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, pardoned Daniel Perry, who had been convicted of murder for fatally shooting a demonstrator during a Black Lives Matter protest. Perry had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing Garrett Foster in downtown Austin in July 2020. Abbott’s hand-picked Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously in favor of the pardon.

Witnesses at the trial had testified that the man Perry shot had never raised his weapon, and according to court records, in the weeks leading up to the protests, Perry had sent multiple racist messages about protesters, shared white supremacist memes and talked about how he “might have to kill a few people” who were demonstrating. In one, he compared the Black Lives Matter movement to “a zoo full of monkeys that are freaking out flinging their shit.”

Abbot’s pardon sends a strong–and horrifying–message: in Texas, elected officials will protect racists. Even murderous ones.

Then there’s the even more horrifying disclosure that–in the wake of the January 6th insurrection– a “Stop the Steal” symbol flew on Justice Samuel Alito’s lawn.

You need not be a lawyer to share Robert Hubbell’s reaction:

As a Supreme Court justice, Alito has been unapologetic in his efforts to defend Trump’s lawlessness. He has risen to Trump’s defense with gleeful spite and unveiled resentment against those seeking to hold Trump accountable under the Constitution.

On Thursday, the New York Times revealed that Alito’s home displayed an upside-down US flag during the fraught days after the January 6 insurrection. At the time, flying the US flag upside down was a symbol calling to “Stop the Steal” of the 2020 election from Trump. It was a call to insurrection—proudly displayed by a US Supreme Court justice sworn to defend and protect the Constitution. See New York Times, At Justice Alito’s House, a ‘Stop the Steal’ Symbol on Display.

In response to an inquiry from the Times, Alito said, I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag.
Notably, Alito did not deny the veracity of the photograph of the flag flying upside down on his lawn. He did not deny the symbolism of the upside-down flag. He did not deny that he was aware of its continued presence in front of his house. Instead, he blamed his wife, whom he claimed flew the “Stop the Steal” banner in response to anti-Trump signs in the neighborhood.

Alito’s response to the Times is a lie. He owns the flag. He owns the flagpole. He owns the property on which the flag was displayed. He permitted it to remain on display on his property. He, therefore, did have “involvement” in “flying the flag.” It does not matter that it was his wife who physically raised the “Stop the Steal” banner on the flagpole. Alito’s hair-splitting denial is misleading and incomplete—and therefore false.

As Hubbell notes, this leaves us with a second Supreme Court Justice whose spouse actively supported an effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.

Those justices—Alito and Thomas—are currently considering Trump’s presidential immunity defense to the indictment alleging that Trump attempted to subvert the election. Under any reasonable reading of Code of Conduct that applies to Supreme Court justices, Alito and Thomas should have recused themselves long ago (under Canons 2 and 3).

In a very real sense, Americans are still fighting the Civil War. Today’s Confederates are more geographically scattered, and the incidents of bloodshed and violence are being perpetrated by individual MAGA racists rather than by an organized Rebel army, but the White Supremacy beliefs motivating the combatants haven’t changed. More worrisome still, years of partisan efforts to subvert racial and religious equality and the rule of law have led to utterly scandalous, unethical, and judicially-unforgivable behaviors by two Justices of the highest court in the land–a profoundly dangerous institutional breakdown.

This is how democracies die.


  1. Recusal on a case by case basis is insufficient; We the People should demand the resignation of these two corrupt bigots. Enough is enough!

  2. So alitos wife has no say? His Patriarchal rule should have taken over and he should have taken responsibility as the head of the household. Ha
    Yes he shouldn’t have allowed it to fly and made a quick apology. But Im more interested in what he dies to the rewrite of Title IX where this President is allowing biological males who claim to be women to compete and take away from my daughters and granddaughters their opportunities.
    We as a nation are abandoning the democratic republic and its representative authority fir the cayse of mob rule.
    A fundamental change has happened and did begin 15 years ago. A division is occurring from CRT and other groups that are destroying the fabric and rule of law of this nation.

  3. Rogue Supreme Court justices must be held accountable. Vote BLUE for a congress that will establish an enforceable code of ethics and a mechanism for removing, sanctioning, and censuring justices who will not follow the laws. The two biggest trouble-makers Alito and Thomas must not be allowed to sit above the law and scrawl graffiti all over the Constitution. Also, we must end lifetime federal appointments, especially for the Supreme Court.

  4. Sam, we don’t need a code of conduct for you and Clarence to violate aside from your oaths to support the Constitution, and what’s next? Are you going to tell us your wife wrote Dobbs? RESIGN!

  5. I used to think that it would be imprudent to expand the Court. Now my position is that we should have the same number of Justices as we have circuits. It’s a logical move and frankly, if we don’t fix the Court, we won’t even need one in a very short time because the only courts will be kangaroo courts.

    At the same time we need an enforceable ethics code for the Court that doesn’t allow the Justices to determine whether or not to recuse themselves. Perhaps an outside ethics committee, like the Judicial Review Board should make those decisions.

    I’m convinced that tfg has dirt on many of those Republicans who do whatever the Orange god wants. They go to Mara Lego to kiss the ring and come back changed men. What is really happening in those private meetings?

  6. The astonishing behavior of trump, Thomas, Alito, the Red Tie clown congressional brigade (along with other anti democratic congress folks who skipped that disgusting and childish display), will continue unabated until voted out of office (trump, congressional sycophants) or the rules of conduct regarding SCOTUS are written to abolish lifetime appointments and establishing a basic code of conduct absent from their world today. Those justices are immersed in the ultimate hubris, prancing around as if nothing is wrong, inappropriately taking part in adjudicating cases in which they have such an obvious bias to make it laughable to anyone who sees it. I googled this:
    The Constitution states that Justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” This means that the Justices hold office as long as they choose and can only be removed from office by impeachment. Has a Justice ever been impeached? The only Justice to be impeached was Associate Justice Samuel Chase in 1805.
    So…re-elect Biden and impeach Alito (the most dangerous justice in terms of our democracy) and Thomas (arguably the worst justice in history). It’s a good start.

  7. Zero integrity. Thomas and Alito both are a disgrace and a clear and present danger to justice and equality in the USA. To say Justice in front of either of their names is oxymoronic.

  8. Soon after President Biden wins the 2024 election he should expand the supreme court in order to reverse the damage already done and prevent further damage to this country.

  9. Several scattered thoughts after reading this newsletter:
    Biden will need a Congress that will work with him, so vote Blue all the way down-ballot.
    Once you own the courts, you can get away with anything. This principle is vividly on display in the trials of the insurrectionist being held, or not held, in current events.
    The photo and revelation of alito’s treason was taken many years ago. Why are we just now seeing it?

  10. Soon after Trump’s nominees for the Supreme Court were confirmed there was much discussion about Biden expanding the court. He didn’t do it then, and I do not see that he would do so in the future. The fact is that old Joe is entrenched in the 20th Century America, as are so many others in government today. Sad.

  11. Let’s see…Biden barely has a chance to wine…the GOP is favored to take control of the Senate and the House is a toss-up. How the H do you think real change will happen? You ain’t seen chaos yet…no matter who becomes President. Think this group should be renamed “The Dreamers”.

  12. If Biden hasn’t expanded the court in his first four years, what makes you think he’ll do it in the next four years?

    You’re asking too much from a bunch of corrupt goons in Washington. Speaking of “oxymorons,” ethics in Washington must be the most flagrant. There is a reason conservative judges have been allowed to flood the benches in our country, especially as free speech cases will be flooding the courts very soon.

    Racism permeates our entire judicial system from top to bottom, but so does corruption. The two seem to go hand in hand, so imposing “ethics” or “morality” on these thugs is comical. There are a few moral leaders who could bring forth an ethics proposal, but it will die in committees.

    Don’t forget that SCOTUS made bribing public officials LEGAL, and nobody in Congress has wanted to codify a law preventing bribery. Why would they want to reduce their fortunes?

    The more corrupt Washington gets, the more sociopaths are drawn to the program. Anybody with a modicum of a conscience would not be able to sleep at nights with the crap that goes on in the halls of justice and Washington.

    Democracy isn’t dying; it’s already dead. Despite the propaganda news outlets in this country spewing crap 24/7, the reputation of the US and Europe are declining at a rapid rate. The shiny veneer is off, and we’re heading for some difficult times in this country.

  13. Yesterday I commented that tribalism is a better descriptor of our current political reality than racism. For instance, tribalism covers misogyny, racism does not.

    Warring tribes are reminiscent of the history of “civilized” Europe through the centuries—interstate wars here like during our Civil War.

    We didn’t learn from history so we are repeating it.

  14. I will not be giving Alito and Thomas the dignity of being called “Justices” from this date forward in favor of Sam and Clarence, and it’s not just the result of upside down flags and a wife who helped Trump pull his 1/6 caper, a caper that would have ended our democracy, elections, any need for a flag, and would have ended with a fascist takeover by Trump. There are also the thousand dollar a day Alaskan salmon fishing trips, free real estate rentals, a luxury RV, and God knows what else the superrich with cases before the court provided these two corrupt bigots (Swiss or Cayman Islands banks?) – speaking of quid pro quo. . .

    This fall’s election is a referendum on whether we prefer having our teetering democracy available for strengthening and reform or a fascist/gestapo future.
    Think I’m overdoing our future? That’s what the “Good Germans” thought was a passing fad with the rise of Hitler in the early Thirties of the Twentieth Century, and history tells us that was a monumental mistake which nearly ended human civilization. Are we willing to leave our collective fate to a criminal psychopath openly bent on dictatorship, exclusive executive authority, building concentration camps, calling out the military to quell peaceful protests etc. I’m not. VOTE!

  15. It appears that the man has forgotten that covid restrictions where still in place and there were no children at bus stops because of them. Likely those children, had they seen the signs, would see those same words in graffiti almost anywhere they go in their community.
    As to his disclaiming any responsibility for the content of the display, see the following from the NCSC document on Code of Ethics for Judges:

    “Several judicial ethics committee have advised that a judge should not permit a sign endorsing a political candidate to be erected on property jointly owned by the judge and the judge’s spouse as this {implies an endorsement by both house-holders.} New York Advisory Opinion 96-112; Maine Advisory Opinion 94-3. The committee for federal judges suggested a judge try to dissuade the judge’s spouse from posting a political candidate’s sign at the marital home. U.S. Compendium of Selected Opinions, §7.3(f) (1995). However, recognizing that a judge might fail in that attempt, the committee advised a judge to “make reasonable efforts to dissociate himself or herself from the sign (e.g., by posting a disclaimer, listing spouse’s name only on the sign, or placing the sign on the spouse’s automobile which judge would not drive).”
    Brackets are mine. While this article discusses political candidate signs, by extension his wife’s actions can be considered as endorsed by him. He knows that. His arrogance is glaring.

  16. Another shaking leg of democracy….”the rule of law”. Not much left with it and public education deteriorating.

  17. LL, “public education deteriorating”.

    I think more to the point is that public misinformation is increasing.

  18. Pete,

    And “further to the point” – it doesn’t matter, as schools do not teach critical thinking, media literacy, data literacy, etc..

  19. What Gerald first said. These two fellows are clearly unable to preside over a kid’s birthday party without bias!

  20. Like I said before, this is not going to end well. If you continue the timeline of recorded human history, as far back as you possibly can, all of these things have happened before. The outcome has been cast in stone.

    Humanity continues to make the same blunders, we can call it, “the same script different but cast.”

    As was mentioned many times over, a way to correct the problem is to declare martial law if you have a president who is a morally correct individual. Suspend the supreme Court and habeas corpus, suspend the Congress, enact anti-lier and anti-slander laws, with stiff penalties. Clean up The lobbyist issue, install appropriate tax laws, make it impossible to overturn appropriate actions, and then reappoint the court. Reappoint Congress without filibusters and others stalling rules and regulations.

    Of course it will not happen, because that’s too much like right. And, it’ll be about the same as the warnings concerning the supreme Court years ago before Hillary Clinton lost. The courts were more important than the presidency. The geniuses argued how long that was. And guess what? It wasn’t wrong. It’s too bad, so many experts can’t see beyond the tip of their nose. Like I said, history repeats! Based on that, you can predict the future, which is going to be really really bleak!

  21. There was a great article in the New York Times over the weekend. It discussed how all of the countries have their own DJT’s, autocratic, prejudiced, and dangerous to both the world and their own countries like Marion Anne Perrine Le Pen. The attempted the assassination last week of Fico and the parallels between now and 1914’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that plunged the world into WWI. The comparison was chilling. I live in an area that is super rural in Michigan. I know the various militia members as most are eager to show they identify by Upside down flags and one milita member in particular who has had 3 banners that are about 4 feet by 12 feet. Easy to read his posts. I share the fear that I may be identified and receive a not so warm welcome by setting the House on fire or some other type of retribution. These are times when the polarization is so glaring it is impossible to miss the cues. I choose to be a person of few words in my agrarian based home. I fear it will get uglier before it gets better.

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