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. Thomas had deep misgivings about the new governmental order, and during his time on the Court he 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.
For Magnet, Thomas is the heroic legal champion of 'the framers’ vision of free, self-governing citizens forging their own fate.' He is the prophetic scourge of our 'regulation-crazed Great Society' in which deep state 'whippersnapper' civil servants have usurped the legislative power that the Constitution gave to Congress alone. The extremism of his attacks on liberalism and his glorification of Thomas are continuously risible ... Thomas’s assertion that he should be free to think as he pleases regardless of race is 'a statement of moral and intellectual heroism on a par with Luther’s ‘Here I stand: I can do no other.’' ... Magnet ends his book with a gratuitous, even racist assault on Barack Obama, in which the former president’s mother is trashed as a 'Kumbaya mother' and a 'flibbertigibbet white mother.' This language reveals both the intellectual caliber and motivation of the modern American right. Its veneration of Thomas, like Donald Trump’s, has to be seen as politically opportunistic — cover not only for attacks on Obama but also for attacks on almost all other blacks in America.
Although he has a personal and professional relationship with Justice Thomas that goes back years, Mr. Magnet in his new book, Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution, makes his case by relying on public Thomas — published interviews and his speeches, journal articles, autobiography and pronouncements from the court ... Mr. Magnet writes with clarity, liveliness and passion, a combination which is likely to make this book a 'right on' pleasure for those who agree with him. But that very passion leads him into excesses ... And he repeatedly launches at those with whom he disagrees pejoratives that are both nasty and needless ... Those excesses are likely to diminish the impact of Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution and make it a turnoff for those not already on his side.
Mr. Magnet has written his book, he tells us, as a way of envisioning what it would look like to rediscover the system of government created by the American Founders. Clarence Thomas’s writings, in his view, show the way ... The belief that Slaughter-House and its progeny can't be overturned, Mr. Magnet writes, has allowed state and local governments to trample constitutional rights and has 'permitted a monumental historical lie to fester instead of allowing the clear sunlight of truth to disinfect and heal it.' I find this reasoning highly plausible, although I fear that a modern Supreme Court armed with the 'privileges or immunities' clause could render the states virtually powerless against federal encroachment. What’s so refreshing about this argument and the rest of Mr. Magnet’s book, however, is that it treats Justice Thomas not merely as a 'black conservative' but as the brilliant and principled jurist that he is.