By Dr. Harold A. Black
Clarence Thomas is one of my living heroes, along with Thomas Sowell. Other heroes have been Milton Friedman and John Lewis. I admired Milton Friedman for showing how basic economics can be applied to solve everyday problems and John Lewis for his courage during the Civil Rights Era. What I admire about Clarence Thomas is that he makes no apologies for his love of America and love of the Constitution. He interprets the Constitution as written and disavows those who wish that it is a “living document.” With the additions of Gorsuch, Barrett and Kavanaugh to the court, this has become Thomas’ court and not that of John Roberts. Consider the important rulings in this term of the court: abortion, the Second Amendment, the overreach of the administrative state, public prayer and school choice. The rulings on Roe and on the Second Amendment were particularly satisfying for Thomas. However, Thomas’ position that the court should interpret the law and not make policy is embedded in all of these major decisions.
Thomas, conservatives and even some liberal jurists have long recognized that Roe was a flawed ruling. In the past, the Court has not overturned Roe and merely tweaked it. In its ruling on Casey, the court held that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment allowed abortions prior to fetal viability. The Dobbs case challenged Casey stating that technology had shifted viability to 15 weeks. After hearing the arguments on Dobbs, the court ruled 6-3 for Dobbs and 5-4 to overturn Roe. This was a victory for Thomas who from the beginning had long sought to overturn Roe on Constitutional grounds. What was particularly interesting is that the minority opinion espoused by Kagan did not object on the basis of the law but argued for Roe to continue because it had been on the books for 50 years. Although the left sought to characterize the Court’s ruling as making abortion illegal, it did no such thing. As Justice Kavanaugh wrote, the Constitution is neutral on abortion which now is returned to the states and is no longer the province of the Federal government.
The second victory for Thomas was a second amendment case in which he wrote the majority opinion. The court ruled 6-3 that the New York restrictions on concealed carry were unconstitutional. Previously, the court had overturned New York restrictions on the right to self-defense in the home. In the ruling against the restrictions on concealed carry, Thomas wrote that the Second Amendment did not draw a home/public distinction with respect to the right to bear arms. Like the ruling on abortion, Joe Biden condemned the ruling by the court arguing more for the effects of the ruling as opposed to its legal standing. Also, troubling have been the rants from elected officials on the left attacking the justices personally and their calling them “illegitimate”. So much for the rule of law.
Although the left’s attack on Kavanaugh and Barrett have been vicious, those on Thomas have been beyond the pale. They have been particularly vitriolic in large part because he is black. Some have called for his impeachment and worse yet others have said that he should be assassinated. Other black conservatives like Sen Tim Scott, Bob Woodson, Jason Riley and Glenn Loury have been verbally attacked but none to the degree of Clarence Thomas. Yet Thomas is steadfast in his beliefs and in his interpretation of the Constitution. He has not wavered and been inconsistent like some Republican appointees such as David Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and now Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts. For that, the left hates him.
In another time, Thomas would merit inclusion in John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. For his strength of convictions and defiance of those who try to intimidate him, Clarence Thomas remains one of my living heroes.