Three Reasons it's Fine That Justice Thomas' Wife is a Tea Partyer

The LA Times report on ethical concerns raised by Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas, who is an active tea partyer and conservative campaigner. But it will make no difference to anything. And here's why.

In January, report the Times, Virginia, who goes by Ginni, started a non-profit lobbying group called Liberty Central that will "organize activism around a set of conservative "core principles"." She's been on panels at CPAC and worked for the Heritage Foundation, where Dick Cheney is sometimes a speaker. On the surface it's worrying — it's unfeasible to assume that the couple do not discuss politics, and are not somewhat influenced by each others views. But:

  • Clarence Thomas is not his wife: what if he's a centrist and merely tolerates his wife's leanings? What if they're James Carville and Mary Matalin? And if that's not the case...
  • People are less stupid than blogs (like this one) make out: assuming he is right-wing, and fully supports his wife's views, and keeps a laminated picture of Leo Strauss in his wallet, Thomas is doubtless an intelligent man with a comprehensive grasp of the law. It is somewhat ludicrous to argue that, if he wanted to, he could not utterly separate his views from his work. He was born dirt poor, experienced appalling racism and still occasionally votes against (perceived) black interests. If he can make that separation, why assume he can't make this one? But if even that is too much of a stretch...
  • Every judge holds political views: there's a myth that judges are apolitical. Which is ridiculous. However much Justice Scalia says he's merely a constitutional literalist, he's clearly not a secret ACLU member in his spare time. A child of eight could map each justice on a left/right spectrum with very little difficulty. Is it a surprise that the Thomas household leans right? Not if you look at his decisions. So his wife's activism will make little difference even if it makes all the difference it possible could.