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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Opinion Justice Alito is right about today’s politics

Opinion Justice Alito is right about today’s politics

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. at the Supreme Court in D.C. in 2021. (Erin Schaff/Pool via Reuters)”

“I don’t agree with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s stances on political and legal issues. Or on ethics. He should recuse himself from cases surrounding former president Donald Trump’s campaign. But he’s right about the divisions in our nation today — and I wish more liberals and moderates in powerful positions shared his perspective.

“One side or the other is going to win,” he told liberal filmmaker Lauren Windsor,who was posing as a conservative activist and secretly recording the conversation.

He added, “I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working — a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised. So it’s not like you are going to split the difference.” The comments were first reported by Rolling Stone.

Today’s fissure between liberals/Democrats/blue states and conservatives/Republicans/red states is deep and, as Alito says, in some ways intractable. The average voter in California does not have totally different views from the average voter in Wyoming. But white Christian nationalist, anti-critical race theory, anti-transgender activists and voters in Texas do hold views that are irreconcilable with those of New York leftists who believe that colonialism, patriarchy and white supremacy are the foundations on which America has been built.

We are not just in a “culture war” over whether people should read the New York Times’s 1619 Project or use the term “Latinx.” States run by Republicans make it very difficult to join a labor union or have an abortion. They strip power from liberal elected officials and sometimes remove them from office. A person with views shared by many White born-again Christians (opposition to abortion and gender-affirming care, that Black people would be as well off as White people on average if they worked harder) will almost never be elected to a powerful job in a blue state.

Most important, key figures who shape Republican Party policy act as though conservatives are in an existential war with the left. That includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Justice Clarence Thomas, activist Christopher Rufo and Trump advisers Russ Vought and Stephen Miller. If Trump returns to the White House, he has made clear that his administration would treat federal workers, left-wing college professors and students, and others whom conservatives don’t like as enemies of the state.

I don’t want Democratic officials, news outlets, nonprofits or other nonconservatives to take actions as radical as these Republicans. The Biden administration should not list groups it would target if the president were to win a second term.

But I wish powerful institutions and individuals on the left and center understood that the country is in the middle of a nonmilitary civil war and acted with the focus and purpose that such a belief would entail.

You might say many people are treating the prospect of Trump winning in November with alarm. That’s true. But the problem isn’t just Trump. The banning of abortion in many states, diminishment of the Voting Rights Act, rollback of state criminal justice reforms and enactment of  widespread restrictions on talking about race in public schools and colleges all happened over the past three years while Trump held no office. Conservative activists and officials are daily attacking left-wing institutions and values. They use whatever power they have, from the Republican-dominated courts to state legislatures to congressional hearings, which led to the resignations of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

Alito’s framing, with the use of the term “side,” was exactly right. There is a conservative side, much broader than just Trump alone. And it is looking to win, not compromise. Abortion was already pretty restricted in red states in 2021. But conservatives still pushed to get Roe v. Wade overturned — and did.

In contrast, Democrats act as though they are in a fight with Trump alone. In 2021, even as the Supreme Court was becoming more radical, Biden not only took the weakest approach possible (appointing a commission to study the issue) but also basically ignored its findings. He bragged about the relatively toothless gun-control bill he passed with Republicans in Washington, ignoring how state-level conservatives were weakening restrictions on gun rights in much of the country.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) refuses to even hold hearings about the controversies surrounding Alito and Thomas.

Many news organizations, including some liberal ones, depict politics as Trump vs. D.C. Democrats . They barely cover state politics, essentially ignoring where much political action takes place. The media still often grades politicians’ effectiveness based on their ability to work across party lines. But Republicans such as Vought accomplish their goals without any support from liberals.

I can’t prove that prominent Democratic politicians and other prominent figures on the center and left have a different perspective from Alito’s. Perhaps in private they too recognize that the country is in a deep conflict that one side has to win. I assume Biden supporters would argue that the president recognizes the deeper divide but thinks that the best way to address it is for him to win reelection, in part by being more conciliatory.

Here’s why I’m skeptical of that view. Democrats in very blue areas, such as Durbin, who don’t have to woo Republican voters, still don’t act with much urgency. They behave as though reaching an agreement with a conservative lawmaker is a huge achievement.

The media seem constantly surprised by the extremist actions of the Republican Party, such as nominating Trump for president again. But it’s not shocking that a political movement that believes it’s in a life-or-death struggle remains behind a man who has shown both deep commitments to the movement’s causes and a willingness to use any means necessary to win political fights.

There are two visions of America being advanced. Liberals are willing to compromise on some parts of theirs, but the most powerful conservatives aren’t looking to meet in the middle. The best way to lose a battle is to pretend it’s not happening — and unfortunately that’s what many prominent liberals and moderates are doing.“

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