Justice Clarence Thomas, whose activism -- along with his wife's -- has bolstered conservative causes, is poised to be a central figure as the Supreme Court reconsiders rolling back more landmark rulings

Neil Roberts, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto, The Conversation on

Published in Political News

“Properly speaking,” Douglass wrote, “there are in the world no such men as self-made men. That term implies an individual independence of the past and present which can never exist.”

Thomas’ view of the law is rooted in the originalism doctrine of an immutable rather than living U.S. Constitution.

Since the 1776 Declaration of Independence, modern America for Thomas has been predominantly a republic, where laws are made for the people through their elected representatives. Unlike a pure democracy, where the people vote directly and the majority rules, the rights of the minority are protected in a republic.

Dating back to ancient Rome, the history of republicanism is a story of denouncing domination, rejecting slavery and championing freedom.

Yet in my view, American republicanism has an underside: its long-standing basis in inequality that never intended its core ideals to apply beyond a small few.

Thomas claims consistency with America’s original founding.


In my view, Thomas’ perilous conservative activism works against a fundamental principle of the U.S. Constitution – “to form a more perfect union.”

Thomas’ rulings reveal a broader ultraconservative agenda to roll back the social and political gains that marginalized communities have won since the 1960s.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Neil Roberts, University of Toronto. If you found it interesting, you could subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Read more:
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Supreme Court’s selective reading of US history ignored 19th-century women’s support for ‘voluntary motherhood’

Neil Roberts does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


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