New Federalist Revolution
By Laura Flanders
I was wrong about Clarence Thomas. Don't misunderstand me. I still have my "I believe Anita Hill" button, but I'm beginning to think that all that talk about Long Dong Silver and The Exorcist was a ploy by Senators Orrin Hatch and Strom Thurmond to distract us from the real deal. While we focused on Thomas' sexual conduct, his views on the Constitution are what should have set off alarms. Almost a decade later, Thomas is all his backers ever hoped for: an aggressive, black new federalist who wants Congress to stop protecting civil rights.
Thanks to his decisive vote in a series of narrow rulings, we're starting the 21st century with our civil rights set back to before the New Deal. On May 15, the Supreme Court voided the civil provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which permitted victims of rape, domestic violence and other gender-motivated crimes to sue their attackers in federal court. The case centered on plaintiff Christy Brzonkala, who sued her two football-player attackers when their Virginia college failed to discipline them. The defendants challenged the constitutionality of the law.
When Thomas joined the Rehnquist majority to strike down the federal protections offered by VAWA, victims of gender-related crimes joined state workers and the elderly in having no guarantee to equal treatment backed up by federal law. (The disabled may be next, depending on how the Court rules in a current challenge to the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
Laura Flanders is a contributing editor of In These Times.