The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Recent Decisions Expose Justice Clarence Thomas’s Impeachable Bias?

The struggle for the soul of America got a lot more real this past week. By the end of the week, the Supreme Court had handed down two major decisions imperiling the lives of most Americans.

On Thursday the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law requiring applicants for a license to carry a gun outside of their homes to have a “proper cause” to do so. The law had made it a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a license.[1] With the Court’s ruling, we are all in greater danger of being an innocent victim of a mass shooting wherever we go.

Then, on Friday the court overruled Roe v. Wade, the 50-year-old case which established the right to an abortion was guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that abortion is not a Constitutional right, thereby giving individual states the power to set their own abortion laws.[2]

With Republicans controlling 26 state legislatures likely to ban abortion, millions of American women will now lose control over their reproductive health decisions.[3] Low-income women will be disproportionately affected since they lack the resources to travel to states where abortion will continue to be legal. The social injustice that the Court has unleashed is unconscionable.

While the conservative majority’s opinions are unnerving, Justice Clarence Thomas’s views deserve greater scrutiny. In the New York gun case, Justice Thomas’s majority opinion invalidated the gun control law because it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their rights under the Second Amendment.[4] Apparently, Thomas believes an individual’s right to carry a concealed weapon in public outweighs the state’s right to protect its citizens against being killed by an angry man in schools, theaters, churches or wherever. More than 98% of all mass shooters are men, often younger than 25.[5]

In overruling the right to an abortion, Thomas’s concurring opinion indicated that the courts’ rationale should also be used to overturn substantive due process cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage.[6]

What is very telling, however, was Justice Thomas’s failure to include overturning the substantive due process right to interracial marriage established in the landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia.[7] For those who are unaware, Thomas is black and his wife, Ginni Thomas, is white. His not objecting to the right to interracial marriage which is based on the same 14th Amendment “due process” clause clearly looks like a biased effort to protect his own marriage. This calls into question Thomas’s ability to be an impartial arbiter of the law.

But Thomas’s inability to be an objective judge goes way beyond shielding his interracial marriage. Thomas’s confirmation hearings were very contentious due to Anita Hill’s accusations of his sexual misconduct. Liberal Democratic senators made it a central focus of the hearings. Later a former law clerk remembered Thomas saying, “The liberals made my life miserable for 43 years…And I’m going to make their lives miserable for 43 years.”[8] Thomas’s desire for revenge while on the court raises serious questions about his impartiality.

In fact, just today Thomas exhibited his lack of judicial objectivity when he was the lone dissenting vote in the Court’s refusal to hear the Coral Ridge Ministries Media appeal. That case challenged the liberal higher bar for public figures to claim libel that was established in the 1964 case of New York Times v. Sullivan.[9] Another example of Thomas’s bias against liberals unduly influencing his judicial decisions.

Last January Thomas was the only dissenting vote when the court rejected Donald Trump’s bid to block the release of his presidential records to the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Later, the Washington Post revealed that Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, sent then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows texts urging him to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results after Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.[10]All the other conservative justices, three even nominated by Trump, rejected Trump’s request. Did Ginni Thomas’s involvement in the efforts to overturn the election influence Justice Thomas’s dissent?

Maybe it’s time for Congress to examine Justice Thomas’s lack of judicial impartiality. Along with the Court’s dangerous decisions last week, this is another issue to raise in the November elections. Another reason to vote against the Republicans who want Thomas to remain on the bench, who support carrying concealed weapons without a good reason and who deny a woman’s right to choose. Democrats need to make all this very clear to the voters in the fall. More than ever, we need to get out the vote in order to save and restore our rights.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/23/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-gun-law-restricting-concealed-carry.html

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/24/roe-v-wade-overturned-by-supreme-court-ending-federal-abortion-rights.html

[3] https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2021/10/26-states-are-certain-or-likely-ban-abortion-without-roe-heres-which-ones-and-why

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/23/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-gun-law-restricting-concealed-carry.html

[5] https://www.menagainstgunviolence.org/men-and-gun-violence-stats; https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/politifact/2022/05/27/fact-check-most-mass-shooters-ages-18-19-texas-school-shooting-uvalde-robb-elementary/9933032002/

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/24/us/clarence-thomas-roe-griswold-lawrence-obergefell.html

[7]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_v._Virginia#:~:text=Loving%20v.%20Virginia%2C%20388%20U.S.,Amendment%20to%20the%20U.S.%20Constitution

[8] https://www.businessinsider.com/clarence-thomas-told-clerks-he-wants-to-make-liberals-miserable-2022-6

[9] https://www.cbs58.com/news/supreme-court-declines-to-revisit-landmark-first-amendment-decision-leaving-higher-bar-for-libel-in-place

[10] https://www.businessinsider.com/clarence-thomas-only-justice-dissent-in-trump-january-6-bid-2022-3

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Breaking America’s Gun Safety Gridlock

A new strategy may be emerging to break the logjam on legislation for gun safety. In The Atlantic magazine, senior editor Gal Beckerman proposes students, parents, and teachers take “the next three months to mobilize” a national strike when school starts again demanding gun safety laws. During the summer vacation, “they could create thousands of local committees supporting the strike and decide on what the national demand might be—say, an assault-weapon ban.”[1]

Beckerman points to the student movement after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland students “built one of the most forceful movements around gun control to date…They also helped persuade Florida’s governor to sign a bill that raised the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days.”[2]

Many unions were quick to denounce the shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers. American Federation of Teacher’s President Randi Weingarten, whose union has lost many members to gun violence, exclaimed, “Gun violence is cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer…We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”[3]

Like most Americans, I am sickened by these school shootings as well as those in theaters, houses of worship and other public places. I agree with Weingarten that we can no longer tolerate this madness. But a national teachers’ strike is a big ask of public servants whose salaries do not often afford them the ability to build large bank accounts in reserve. Therefore, a fund to support striking teachers that many of us could support should be developed as soon as the organizing begins. (Note: This idea came from Margaret Lubalin, my editor/partner.)

With the help of the AFT and other unions, an extended national strike could be very effective. Hopefully, it would force Congress and state legislatures to act. With most Republicans opposing meaningful gun safety measures, it could also have a defining impact on some contested electoral races this November.

As momentum builds, the strike could be expanded to other issues as well. Whether it’s gun safety, abortion rights, voting rights or saving democracy itself, our country is at a dangerous stalemate. And let’s not forget the COVID pandemic and global warming.

Our nation is deeply divided on all these critical issues and at a loss as to what to do. Republicans blame the Democrats who control the government. They say elect them to run the country but have offered no sound solutions. Just recriminations and name-calling. They are obsessed with power and control. To them, their way is the only acceptable way. Democrats rightly respond that Republicans just obstruct any real effort to fix our problems.

The state of American politics is demoralizing and depressing. We once were better than this. A national strike for gun safety would be a big step forward toward bringing Americans of all persuasions together (over 90% want expanded background checks[4]) and making our country a healthier, safer place to live. The question is can we muster the strength and the will to overcome the gun lobby and its allies and find our way back to a more civil society before it’s too late.  Therein lies the struggle for the Soul of America.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/05/uvalde-school-shooting-gun-control-walkout/643120/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://paydayreport.com/strikes-over-gun-control-erie-dc-teachers-went-on-strike-over-gun-control-weingarten-calls-for-action%EF%BF%BC/

[4] https://www.bradyunited.org/key-statistics?gclid=Cj0KCQjw4uaUBhC8ARIsANUuDjX4nlkbjeRY7qs1XkJePFdqdFrRdumlsGZbzF1N9xsOsBrY5-H8gWAaAmIjEALw_wcB

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Enough Is Enough!

This past week we witnessed yet another senseless mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Our nation grieves for all the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as for their families, teachers and classmates.

We have allowed these horrific events to occur for way too long without demanding concrete efforts to prevent them. Enough is enough!

In April 1999, we were shocked when 12 students and a teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO.[1] In just five months this year there have already been 27 school shootings.[2] The next one could be at your child’s or grandchild’s school. They are all at-risk.

Since 2009, there have been 274 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 1536 people shot and killed and 983 people shot and wounded.[3] The next one could be in your shopping mall or movie theater. We are all at-risk and we must have solid solutions to this deadly epidemic now.

There are two things that have real power in American politics. One is money and the other is people. I wrote a whole book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, on this topic several years ago. (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.) Given the most recent deadly shootings in Texas and Buffalo, New York, this issue is even more relevant today.

In the wake of these tragic events, the roles that both money and people play in dealing with gun violence in our country needs to be made clear to all Americans.

First, how effective is money in influencing public policy on gun control? In my book, I wrote:

“Though 92 percent of Americans want universal background checks for people purchasing guns, our elected officials’ personal ambitions override the public interest and dictate their political actions.”[4]

From 2000 to 2013, the gun lobby, which includes the National Rifle Association (NRA), the firearms industry, and the Gun Owners of America, has contributed a combined $81 million to congressional and presidential election campaigns to defeat gun control measures.[5] The gun lobby’s investment paid off when the Republican Congress refused to renew the ban on assault weapons after it expired in 2004.[6]

Back then, the U.S. senators who received the most campaign contributions from the gun lobby were Republicans like Roy Blunt (R-MO), who received $2.6 million from the NRA during his 2010 campaign, and Ron Johnson (R-WI), $1.2 million from the NRA.[7]

It’s no different today. The top 10 Senate recipients of NRA contributions are all Republicans. Leading the pack is Mitt Romney (R-UT) with over $13 million. Roy Blunt is still up there at number 3 with over $4.5 million. Number 10 is Bill Cassidy (R-LA) with a still sizeable $2.8 million.

When it comes to gun control policy, Republican senators choose taking money from the gun lobby over protecting American lives.

So, what about we, the people’s effect on gun control policy? The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) is comprised of 47 national organizations working to reduce gun violence. Its coalition members include religious organizations, child welfare advocates, public health professionals, and social justice organizations.[8] However, their noble efforts have not borne much fruit.

Since the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Congress has not passed a universal background check statute or any other meaningful legislation to deal with the issue of gun violence in our country.[9]

How to get sensible gun control laws passed? We have to elect pro-gun control candidates and vote those gun lobby-dominated Republican senators out of office. While that will not be easy with all the campaign money they receive, the power of the people to force change can be formidable. Consider the Women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement.

According to the latest poll following the most recent Texas and Buffalo shootings, 65% of Americans support stricter gun control laws.[10]

We must make gun control a top issue in this year’s elections. Republican senators like Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are vulnerable on this as well as the other hot-button issue of abortion rights. Open seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio are winnable by pro-gun control Democrats as well.

We need to protect our children as well as all Americans. The best way to do that now is to get involved in this year’s election campaigns. We must make sure that the great majority of Americans who support gun control vote in November. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.history.com/topics/1990s/columbine-high-school-shootings

[2] https://www.npr.org/2022/05/24/1101050970/2022-school-shootings-so-far

[3] https://everytownresearch.org/maps/mass-shootings-in-america/

[4] Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 24 (Santa Fe, NM: Our Time Books, 2016)

[5] Ibid, p. 23

[6] https://www.npr.org/2019/08/13/750656174/the-u-s-once-had-a-ban-on-assault-weapons-why-did-it-expire

[7] Ibid, pp. 23-24

[8] https://www.csgv.org/

[9] Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 23

[10] https://morningconsult.com/2022/05/26/support-for-gun-control-after-uvalde-shooting/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: All Hands On Deck

Most Americans are well aware of how critical this year’s election is. Nothing less than the survival of American democracy is at stake.

“(T)his election isn’t just about Biden vs. Trump. This is about democracy vs. fascism,” according to Peter Dreier, distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. Prof. Dreier asserts that if Trump wins a second term, “he will double down on his fascist instincts and foment increasingly overt white supremacist violence, xenophobia, nativism, and anti-Semitism… We will see an unprecedented level of human suffering.” Dreier also believes Trump will:

  • seek to dismantle unions and workers’ rights,
  • slash the already-torn safety net,
  • eviscerate voting rights and civil liberties,
  • hand over more public funds and government services (such as prisons, the post office, health care, national parks, and schools) to big corporations, and
  • try to starve cities and states by denying federal funding for key services.[i]

The American people must take Prof. Dreier’s warning very seriously. When Trump signed the two-trillion-dollar coronavirus-relief package in late March, he rejected Congress’s oversight provision, declaring, “I’ll be the oversight.” A few days later, he fired the special inspector general who was to monitor spending, reporting to Congress anything that seemed amiss. Not long after that Trump proclaimed, “When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total. It’s total.”[ii]

There is less than six months until the election. Americans are overwhelmed by the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact of a crashing economy. For most of us the November election is not our primary concern right now. Many are feeling hopeless about the state of the country as well as powerless to change it. Whatever our preoccupations and feelings may be, we cannot afford to ignore the urgency of this moment. Nor can we allow our disappointment that our preferred candidate is not heading the Democratic Party’s ticket dissuade us from working on this election.

We must act now to save our country from being destroyed by Trump’s “fascist instincts” in a second term.

The most important thing all of us can do from now till November is taking action to ensure that the election is conducted fairly. That includes:

  • developing a massive voter registration drive
  • establishing the universal right to vote-by-mail in every state and territory
  • supporting a concerted effort to expand early voting
  • protecting the U.S. Postal Service from being defunded or privatized to safeguard vote-by-mail
  • creating a public education campaign alerting the public to the great danger of a second Trump term is required as well

Now is the time to act before it’s too late. We all must get involved in one way or another. Join a voters’ rights group, for example:

The Voting Rights Alliance at https://www.votingrightsalliance.org/ ;

The Election Protection coalition at https://866ourvote.org/.

Together we can, and will, save our democracy. 

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[i] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/05/not-normal-election

[ii] https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/studying-fascist-propaganda-by-day-watching-trumps-coronavirus-updates-by-night

 

Let’s Reframe Gun Control To Focus on Our Safety

Gun violence has become a raging epidemic in the United States. And it’s not just due to mass shootings. On average 93 people die from gunshot wounds in this country everyday.1 In 2016, more than 38,000 people were killed by firearms.2 What can we do to stem this horrific tide of violence?

Over 90% of Americans, including 86% of Republicans, support universal background checks.3 At the same time, the majority of us believe it’s practically impossible to fight the all-powerful gun lobby. We watch these tragedies escalate and feel helpless to prevent the next one: 58 innocent people are randomly killed, 527 others injured by a lone gunman at an outdoor concert4; young children are murdered in their schools; and others killed in their church or at the movies.

Now no place is safe. None of us can feel secure when we could easily be the next victim of gun violence. Our personal safety, as well as that of our loved ones’, is in real danger. The truth is we can no longer afford to sit back, waiting around like ducks in a shooting gallery. We all must get involved now.

While a movement to prevent gun violence is growing throughout the country, a massive campaign to increase the public’s understanding of this issue is essential. This became really clear to me during a conversation I had on my flight to Philadelphia last Thanksgiving. As I spoke to the woman seated next to me about the ever-increasing gun violence in our country, she explained that she was a gun owner who supported universal background checks. An intelligent, former defense contractor, this mother of three children then startled me by noting she opposed gun control. I was confused. How could this be?

Like many gun owners, she believed gun control meant the government wanted to take away her guns. I responded that gun control is about keeping people safe, not gun confiscation. But clearly she was listening to the message of the gun lobby, which prevents even the most common sense gun control laws from being enacted, such as keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, domestic violence abusers, even known terrorists. Clearly, we need to better educate the public about the meaning and purpose of gun control.

So how can we articulate the gun control message more effectively? What if instead of emphasizing gun control, there was a Movement for the Safety of All Americans? If the problem were framed as a domestic and public safety issue rather than a gun control matter, perhaps we could build greater demand for conquering this national epidemic.

When people feel that a problem personally affects them, they are much more likely to become involved in solving it. The history of mass movements in America bears that out. From Women’s Suffrage and Labor to Civil Rights and LGBTQ issues, mass movements have arisen to demand that the nation address the critical needs of millions of its citizens. The threat that gun violence poses to our safety is not being met with the urgency, resources and all-out response this crisis requires. Making the prevention of gun violence a nationwide, public safety emergency could galvanize the nation to cure this epidemic.

Mass movements have always faced very strong resistance from the status quo. The gun lobby has an extremely strong grip on many members of Congress. In 2014, gun rights advocates spent over $30 million on campaigns and lobbying while gun control reformers spent less than $10 million.5 (See nmmop.org to help get Big Money Out of Politics.) Still, the polls indicate that the people overwhelmingly want gun control. As Americans’ resolve to defeat gun violence grows, our resignation that it is hopeless will dissipate.

Therefore, we must all get involved. Here in New Mexico, you can join New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence (www.newmexicanstopreventgunviolence.org).

If you live in another state, find a similar organization to support and help build the grassroots effort for the safety of all Americans. Our mass movement can beat back the gun lobby and force our state legislatures and Congress to act despite the opposition. Together we can make America safe again!

  1. See https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/#DailyDeaths.
  2. See https://www.yahoo.com/news/much-really-know-gun-violence-200525739.html.
  3. See https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2057.
  4. See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-shooting.html.
  5. See https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-loaded-is-the-gun-lobby/

The Gun Lobby

In case you missed it, last week the Republican-controlled Senate voted not to ban sales of guns to people on the terror watchlist. The fact that fourteen innocent people had just been killed in San Bernardino, California in what appears to be a terrorist-related attack had no effect on the senators. Their attention was on the gun lobby that didn’t want the ban to pass.

Under current federal law, there is no basis to automatically prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives because the individual appears on the terrorist watchlist.

As I point out in my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America,the gun lobby also controls our representatives. Since the 2000 election cycle, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the firearms industry, and the Gun Owners of America have contributed a combined $81 million to congressional and presidential election campaigns to defeat gun control measures, according to federal disclosures and a Center for Responsive Politics analysis done for the Center for Public Integrity.

Such opposition to gun control by government representatives occurs despite the fact that over 11,000 people were killed by gun violence in the United States in 2011, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Moreover, 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks for all gun purchases, based on a July 2014 Quinnipiac University poll.

 

 We need to break the gun lobby’s grip on our government. Check out my website, breakingbigmoneysgrip.com, for how you can help.