Spouses are not their partners. They are unique individuals and deserve to be respected accordingly. But when a U.S. Supreme Court justice’s wife, his most intimate and important advisor, advocates an overthrow of democracy, Americans have cause for concern.
And it appears that Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, has done just that. In a series of emails to Mark Meadows, former President Trump’s chief of staff, she urgently urged him to take steps to overturn the results of the 2020 election. In one ominous post she wrote, “Do not concede. It takes time for the army who is gathering for his back.”
The army was not gathering to back Trump, of course, but she clearly supported the idea. That she put her hopes in a military-backed coup is not surprising. Thomas, an extreme right-wing activist, is prone to flaky conspiracy theories. In one of her messages to Meadows she quoted pro-Trump websites that reported,“Biden crime family … are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days,” adding “I hope this is true.”
Democrats are expressing concern about how the justice will vote on upcoming cases regarding the January 6th insurrection and related issues. Stephen Gillers, law professor and judicial ethics expert at New York University, suggests that “The consequences of what she’s done is that I don’t think that Clarence Thomas can sit on any case involving, even remotely, the conduct of the election, the vote of Congress on January 6, or any cases involving the January 6 committee’s attempts to get information … He must recuse himself.”
While the Thomas’s are their own persons, Justice Thomas is no doubt influenced by his wife’s radicalism. In his memoir he writes they are “one being—an amalgam.” This may simply be the justice’s romantic soul speaking, nonetheless it suggests the views of the two coincide. While his views may be less flaky, his commitment to Trump is apparently equally strong. We might reasonably ask, therefore, if he shared Ginni’s view that the election should have been overturned. It is unlikely to be mere coincidence that in January he was the only justice who dissented from the court’s decision to allow the release of records from the Trump White House related to the January 6 attack.
The insistence by a number of the court’s justices in recent speeches that the court is impartial and not merely an arm of the Republican Party becomes increasingly hard to believe, at least in Justice Thomas’s case. To paraphrase Matthew 7:20: By their friends ye shall know them.