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The Insurrectionists in Our Midst

Featured insurrectionists this week: Samuel Alito ... Matt Gaetz ... Greg Abbott.

"Sam Alito - Jurisimprudence" , by DonkeyHotey licensed under CC BY 2.0

Blame It On The Wife

Though we certainly didn’t need it, yesterday was a reminder that convicting, defeating, and incarcerating Donald Trump won’t by itself rid us of the lawless insurrectionists that now populate the Republican Party, Congress, and the Supreme Court.

In a breathtaking report from the NYT’s relentless Jodi Kantor, neighbors of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito provided evidence that the American flag was flying upside down outside his Alexandria, Virginia home in the run-up to Jan. 20, 2021 inauguration of Joe Biden – an unmistakeable emblem of protest heavily adopted by the Big Lie/Stop the Steal crowd in the weeks after the 2020 election.

Remarkably, Alito admitted to the NYT via email that the incident had happened but blamed his wife for it, claiming she had been personally offended by a neighbor posting what we are led to believe was a “Fuck Trump” sign or similarly blunt message in their own yard:

I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag. It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.

Given how thin-skinned, peevish, and quick to offend Alito himself is, I suppose it would be no surprise if his wife were similarly small-minded. Note how Alito’s statement, while it blames his wife, also obliquely defends her – “objectionable and personally insulting”! – and does nothing to disavow what she did, the message it sent, or the way it undermined his already-compromised position on the high court.

Alito spends much of his time harnessing perceived personal slights to high principle and running around tilting at windmills. I don’t know anything of his spouse, and she has little public profile – so we are left to wonder if they are kindred spirits in that regard. But even the kind of people who get in fights with their neighbors and hold themselves in such high regard that they conflate their own wounded egos with foundational principles don’t usually find themselves defending or touting insurrections.

As things now stand, the wives of two of the Supreme Court justices – Virginia Thomas and Martha-Ann Alito – have either publicly organized, backed, or expressed support for the effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

My only gripe with the NYT story is that it quickly shifts from the facts of what happened to an analysis of the ethical implications for a sitting Supreme Court justice, including whether the Supreme Court’s own rules apply to the justice themselves, whether they should be subject to the standards of everyone else in the federal judiciary, and the whys and wherefores of judges not doing anything to appear overtly partisan.

Please. It’s all so precious. The more time we spend splitting hairs over the ethical niceties of this or that particular episode, the harder it is to see the big picture.

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This wasn’t merely a matter of the household of a sitting Supreme Court justice improperly demonstrating a partisan preference in a public way. This was a bold declaration of affinity for and alignment with the smoldering insurrection led by a president of the same party that had just been put down but which still loomed as a threat to civic order, the peaceful transfer of power (which at that point had still not yet happened), and the rule of law.

All Alito can muster in response is to blame his wife.

Stand Back And Standby

While Justice Alito was dancing around the issue, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was saying the quiet part out loud. He posted a photo of himself standing behind Donald Trump at the courthouse in Manhattan where his hush money trial is being held and echoed Trump’s own famous line to the Proud Boys from the 2020 presidential debate stage:

Many of the leaders of the Proud Boys, who led the attack on the Capitol, are now in jail after being convicted on seditious conspiracy charges.

The message to Gaetz’s 2.5 million followers on X/Twitter was clear: He stands with the Proud Boys and whether it’s the next election or the current trial, he and the MAGA hoards are prepared to tear it all down – or at least posture about planning to do so.

Tell me again how the insurrection was quashed, nothing really happened, and it’s now over.

Abbott Pardons Gunman Who Killed BLM Protester

The third example from yesterday is not directly related to Jan. 6, and yet it’s unmistakably connected.

As he has long promised, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) pardoned the gunman who was convicted of shooting and killing an armed Black Lives Matter protester in Austin in the summer of 2020.

The BLM protests and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are inextricably intertwined in the Republican mind. Jan. 6 was their BLM protest. Why are all the Jan. 6 rioters being prosecuted while Biden lets the BLM thugs walk free, they argue disingenuously. Abbott was sending his own message about the relative value of the lives of the gunman and the protester, about which side Abbott himself is on, and what his real values are.

So there you have it in a nutshell. From top to bottom, the Republican Party has become the insurrectionist party. It extends from the executive to the legislative to the judicial. It’s all encompassing and unapologetic. There is value in such clarity, if we choose to see it.

David Kurtz is TPM's executive editor and Washington Bureau chief. He oversees the news operations of TPM.

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