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SEPTEMBER 15, 2019

WE THE PEOPLE RADIO

 

"All About Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas"

with Myron Magnet, City Journal editor-at-large

Hour 1   WE THE PEOPLE RADIO                Hour 2  WE THE PEOPLE RADIO

About Myron Magnet

Myron Magnet is a prizewinning author and journalist, editor-at-large of City Journal, and author of the new book, Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution.  He previously served as editor of City Journal and a member of the board of editors of Fortune magazine.  He is one of America’s leading public intellectuals and a recipient of the National Humanities Medal in 2008.  Magnet is a frequent media guest who has appeared on major radio and television programs nationwide.  He has written extensively for some of our nation’s leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal, National Review, Commentary, The American Spectator, and The New York Times.  His work has covered a wide range of topics from American society and social policy to history, economics, literature, and the American founding.  He previously authored The Founders at HomeThe Dream and the Nightmare, and other titles.  Magnet holds bachelor’s degrees from Columbia University and the University of Cambridge.  He earned an M.A. from Cambridge and a Ph.D. from Columbia, where he taught for several years.  He lives in New York City.

 

"Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution"

By Myron Magnet

Washington, DC—When Clarence Thomas joined the Supreme Court in 1991, he found with dismay that it was interpreting a very different Constitution from the one the Framers had written—the one that had established a federal government manned by the people’s own elected representatives, charged with protecting citizens’ inborn rights while leaving them free to work out their individual happiness themselves, in their families, communities, and states.  How did we lose the republic of the Framers’ imagination and how can we restore their magnificent self-governing nation of liberty?

In CLARENCE THOMAS AND THE LOST CONSTITUTION (Encounter Books, May 7, 2019), renowned author and City Journal editor-at-large Myron Magnet contends that Clarence Thomas’s radical originalist jurisprudence presents a path forward for recovering our nation’s “Lost Constitution” and restoring America as a free, self-governing nation made up of independent-minded, self-reliant citizens.  And the book reveals how the mortal combat between the original Constitution of Liberty and the evolved “Living Constitution” lies at the heart of the animosity that divides Americans today.

Magnet recounts the gripping tale of how the Constitution got twisted beyond recognition from the 1787 document, the 1789 Bill of Rights that the Founders had framed, and the Reconstruction-Era Amendments ratified to fulfill Lincoln’s dream of a new birth of freedom.  Woodrow Wilson, who despised the Framers’ checks and balances as obsolete and inefficient, purposely began that distortion, aiming to replace the Founders’ government of separated, enumerated, and limited powers with government by unelected, “scientific” experts in executive-branch agencies, dispassionately making binding rules like a legislature, carrying them out like a president, and adjudicating and punishing infractions of them like a court.

Seeking to bypass cumbersome congressional lawmaking, Wilson saw the Supreme Court as a permanent constitutional convention, the soul of a “Living Constitution” that would evolve continually, in Darwinian fashion, with the Bench legislating to meet modernity’s ever-new needs.  What Wilson set going, Franklin Roosevelt supersized, creating in the alphabet soup of New Deal agencies what he acknowledged was a fourth branch of government with no constitutional basis.  Then, under Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s, the Nine set about realizing Wilson’s dream of a Supreme Court sitting as a permanent constitutional convention, conjuring up laws out of smoke and mirrors and justifying them as expressions of the spirit of the age.

But Clarence Thomas—who joined the Court after eight years running one of the myriad administrative agencies that the Great Society had piled on top of FDR’s batch—had deep misgivings about the new governmental order.  He shared the Framers’ vision of free, self-governing citizens forging their own fate.  And from his own experience growing up in hyper-segregated Savannah under the vigilant eye of his ferociously self-reliant grandfather, flirting with and rejecting black radicalism at college, and running an agency that supposedly advanced equality, he doubted that unelected experts and justices really did understand the moral arc of the universe better than the people themselves, or that the rules and rulings they issued made lives better rather than worse.

More painful to Clarence Thomas, his predecessors on his own Court had helped kill Reconstruction in its cradle through grotesque 1870s decisions that neutered the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and ensured decades of Jim Crow black subservience in the South.  Even worse, the Court still cites those decisions as precedents for its rulings to this very day.  But such racist judgments surely don’t merit the status of Constitutional law, Clarence Thomas concluded.  In the Justice’s radical originalism, clearly explained in these pages in engaging, non-lawyerly prose, the only legitimate Constitutional law is the Constitution.

So in the hundreds of opinions he has written in more than a quarter century on the Court, Clarence Thomas has questioned the constitutional underpinnings of the new order and tried to restore the limited, self-governing original one, as more legitimate, more just, and more free than the one that grew up in its stead.  The Court now seems set to move down the trail he blazed.  So far, few of Clarence Thomas’s searching opinions have served as the Court’s majority ruling.  But he is laying down, within the Court’s official record, a blueprint for future Justices to restore the authentic U.S. Constitution, just as his own character embodies the old ideal of American citizenship, with liberty at its heart.

 

To arrange an interview with Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution author Myron Magnet, please contact Stephen Manfredi at 202.222.8028 or smanfredi@ManfrediStrategyGroup.com.

Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution  

10 Interview Questions

for Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution Author Myron Magnet
To Learn More About Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution, 
visit 
www.EncounterBooks.com or www.MyronMagnet.com

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WE THE PEOPLE RADIO

 

1.       Why did you write CLARENCE THOMAS AND THE LOST CONSTITUTION?

2.       In CLARENCE THOMAS AND THE LOST CONSTITUTION, you contend that upon his ascension to the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas was dismayed to discover that the Court was interpreting a very different Constitution from the one the Framers had written.  How was this Constitution fundamentally different?

3.       What is the “Lost Constitution”?  How did we lose the republic of the Framers’ imagination?

4.       What impact did Clarence Thomas’s own life experiences—growing up in segregated Savannah under the vigilant eye of his fiercely self-reliant grandfather, running an agency that supposedly advanced equality, and encountering race and sex politics at his confirmation hearings—have on his judicial philosophy and quarter century of service on the Supreme Court?

5.       How did Woodrow Wilson’s notion of a “Living Constitution” and dream of a permanent Constitutional convention develop from the Progressive Era and FDR’s New Deal to the Warren Court and beyond?

6.       Why has the new constitutional order based on a permanent Constitutional convention undermined American freedom and the Framers’ vision of free, self-governing citizens forging their own fate?  To what extent is this new constitutional order based on judicial policy-making directly responsible for the creation of our undemocratic “Administrative State” in which unelected bureaucrats rule?  To what extent does the battle between the original Constitution of Liberty and the “Living Constitution” lie at the heart of the animosity that divides Americans today?  Does our constitutional order face a crisis of legitimacy?

7.       How did the Supreme Court actually undercut Reconstruction efforts after the Civil War, weakening the Fourteen and Fifteenth Amendments to ensure decades of Jim Crow black subservience in the South?  Why does the Court continue to cite these decisions as precedent for its modern rulings?

8.       What is “originalism”?  You note that Clarence Thomas holds firmly that the only legitimate Constitutional law is the Constitution itself.  Does this mean that legal precedent is irrelevant?  Why is the Court so wedded to the doctrine of stare decisis?  Please explain Clarence Thomas’s originalist judicial philosophy.

9.       You contend that in the hundreds of opinions he has written in more than a quarter century on the Court, Clarence Thomas has questioned the constitutional underpinnings of the new order and tried to restore the limited, self-governing original one, as more legitimate, just, and free than the one that grew up in its stead.  What are a couple of the most important opinions Clarence Thomas has written?  How do Clarence Thomas’s legal rationales generally differ from his fellow justices, even those with whom he usually agrees?

  1.     CLARENCE THOMAS AND THE LOST CONSTITUTION argues that the Court now seems set to move down the trail Clarence Thomas has blazed—that he is laying down within the Court’s official record a blueprint for future justices to restore the authentic U.S. Constitution.  Do you think that Clarence Thomas’s “radical originalism” will ultimately prevail?  Are Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the same mold as Clarence Thomas?

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