leads to the sort of thing we see in yesterday’s Washington Post by columnist Colbert King. Styled a “Voting Rights Reminder for Clarence Thomas,” King’s column is an utterly appalling, disgraceful example of moral and racial blackmail, calling on the shade of Thomas’s grandfather Myers Anderson, invoking what King calls “African Americans’ hostility toward Thomas” and all but promising to exacerbate it, while trading on King’s allegedly good relations with Justice Thomas and hinting that he could tell tales out of school from their conversations but is above all that.
All this thuggery is employed in an attempt to persuade (!!) Thomas to vote the way King wants in the pending Voting Rights Act case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility Dist. No. 1 v. Holder. Almost as an afterthought in the latter part of the column, King trots out some perfunctory legal arguments. But the heart of his argument is that Thomas should remember he is a black man and vote in the (presumptive) interests of his race.
There are important legal principles at stake in this case, though it is farfetched to suppose that the historic purposes of the Voting Rights Act would be deeply frustrated by a ruling that the municipal utility district is not bound by the pre-clearance provisions of the act when it wants to make some changes in the conduct of its elections. At the most fundamental level, the powers of Congress and the judiciary are in competition here: when section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment says ” [t]he Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation,” should our focus be on “Congress shall have power” or on a judicial authority to assess whether legislation is “appropriate”?
Such questions cannot be answered better (or worse) by black judges than by white ones. Nor can they be answered more intelligently by evoking emotional responses, in judges of any color, to memories of Jim Crow. And we would certainly think ill–and rightly so–of any judge who chose an outcome in the case according to his “empathy” or his own “identity” as a member of one race or another.
So Colbert King wants Clarence Thomas to sacrifice his judicial duty to racial identity politics. King quotes Thomas’s grandfather and warns the justice not to “shame our race.” Colbert King has already shamed himself, simply as a man.