Bad Faith Is Turning Us Into Monsters

Bad Faith Is Turning Us Into Monsters

The sweetest, most earnestly good-hearted woman I know – a paragon of selflessness and unconditional love – sorta kinda wants conservative Supreme Court justices to take a permanent dirt nap.

It's not that this lady wants the Court's six frothing right-wing justices to die. She would never say so directly; she's far too sweet to sound like a deranged Twitter addict. This woman, who I've known since high school, is no radical leftist. She's not even a cringe resistance lib. She's decidedly apolitical.

She sometimes reminisces about the "good" Republican presidents – Eisenhower and Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She loved Barack Obama's non-political message of unity and intentionally vague change. And in 2020 she voted for Joe Biden because – like most Americans – she was deeply repulsed by the vulgarity and norms-flaunting of Donald Trump.

In conversations about the hyper-politicized Supreme Court, poisoned by a slate of stolen Republican seats, this lady – a suburban dweller in her 60s – expresses the same kind of hopelessness that has become so terribly prevalent online. This sense that there is nothing that can be done about the Supreme Court justices crafting policy from the bench has infiltrated not just the manic Twitter circles I frequent, but real life. This woman, my friend, is extremely not online. She has no idea what we talk about in our broken-brain conversations; she would require a six-week class to understand the nonsense we talk about in the Bad Faith Times discord channel.

And yet, she feels what we feel – that our judicial system has a killer flaw (lifetime Supreme Court appointments) and there's no way around it. Sometimes, I suppose, Twitter is real life. For her, as for broken-brain millennials posting 17 hours a day, the hopelessness has curdled into something much worse, something sinister.

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That this sweet boomer lady, who wouldn't so much as swat a fly in her kitchen, talks openly about the death of far-right SCOTUS justices being our only way out of 21st century dystopia is both concerning and heartbreaking. It's not that she wishes for their demise, but that lifetime appointments to the most important branch of the government – one now used by the American right to block progress and roll back the rights of vulnerable groups – leaves no other path to change. Justices hold unchecked power until they are no longer on this mortal coil.

The Court's bad faith on myriad issues, from guns to abortion to gerrymandering and voter suppression, has turned is into a nation of death wishers. It's turned us into monsters.

The Supreme Court's conservatives using a series of bad-faith arguments against abortion rights gave them reason to overturn half a century of legal precedent and put every pregnant person at risk for the foreseeable future. The end of Roe was an ice-bucket-to-the-face wake up call for the apolitical among us, including my boomer friend. The arguments against legal abortion were always a farce, but maybe they would stay in legislatures dominated by Republicans who had rigged electoral maps in their favor. Right-wing lawmakers leveraging state power against doctors and clinics providing abortion care was someone else's problem. Republicans working with radical anti-abortion activists and encouraging them to harass and intimidate abortion patients and those caring for them was somewhere far away. And really, couldn't those abortion patients just drive across state lines and get care?

Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most dangerous, fanatical character in the American tragedy, leading his fellow Court conservatives in making weapons of war impossible to regulate has given us a future of mass shootings without end. I think we all know what would happen if Democrats developed a spine and nuked the filibuster to pass life-saving gun control measures, including a ban on assault weapons. Thomas and his cohorts would step in and say no, the founders wanted 22-year-old, severely-online incels to kill innocents in Walmarts and schools and government buildings across the country. That's the price of freedom. Thomas and the Court's right wingers know this isn't true, that there is no real basis to the argument of unfettered access to assault weapons. But that's the power of bad faith: If you pretend it's true, if you feign sincerity that this is your actual legal interpretation, no one can push back. It's a belief system that's nearly impossible for the American left to understand, and to fight against.

We have been frogs boiling in water for two decades. None of this happened by accident. Our nightmare political reality was made possible a the jarring lack of will among those who were supposed to fight against the right's advances. Namely, Barack Obama, who for eight years refused to fight fire with fire. He fought fire with a hug and a pat on the back and an unshakable belief that the right-wing fever would break and he would one day be able to work hand in hand with Republicans who had been open and honest about their desire to sink his presidency. Obama's almost delirious optimism means the far right could have a Supreme Court majority for the next fifty years. If I live to 80 (from 1983 to 2063) it's likely the left will not have had a Court majority during my lifetime. It's a hell of coup.

Political hopelessness being a prominent theme of the past decade, The New York Times has reams of straight news pieces and opinion columns on the depressing phenomenon. A December 2021 letter to the editor stuck with me.

When a president backs away from the battle over a Supreme Court justice nomination, as Barack Obama did, when we allow Americans to arm themselves with military-style weapons, when we allow gerrymandering to take away control from a majority and hand it to a minority, those are the moments when actions were needed but we shrank away. Add to that the propaganda meant to embolden the radical and immobilize the enemy and here we are in America today. We cannot change what has gone before. We can only recognize today’s threats and take action against them. Pass the voting rights legislation. Pass legislation meant to support middle-class Americans in their desires to live good lives. Aggressively prosecute those who openly threaten our way of life. Turn up the messaging from the White House and around the country to drown out the Tucker Carlsons of our world. Despair is a state of mind, not reality. Reality lives in the actions we take, and these times call for strong actions to be taken.

As a Supreme Court justice, you are all powerful. Americans – no matter how disgusted they are with you – have no recourse against your power. The executive and legislative branches have pledged to do nothing to curtail your godlike power (though they certainly can if they can summon the political will). So we're left to wish for death. All of us. Even the sweet old ladies.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.