Has Gorsuch been groomed for SCOTUS by the far right? Buckley, Federalists and Heritage, Oh My!
Something odd happened when I started learning about Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch — he seemed terribly familiar. The more I learned about him — how he ruled against the truck driver trying to save himself from freezing, against the family trying to get a good education for their autistic son, his lack of sympathy for protective regulations, and his concerning record when it comes to civil rights, disability rights, women’s equality, and in other areas — the more that nagging feeling crept in.
It finally clicked when I learned about his high school picture which shows him reading a book by William F. Buckley, the generationally pivotal conservative, mainstreamer of racist causes and Joe McCarthy fan. Then the clincher: Gorsuch had co-founded Columbia University’s conservative student paper, The Federalist a.k.a. “The Fed”, because he found Columbia’s official paper, The Columbia Daily Spectator and prevailing campus views too liberal. That’s it! Gorsuch was clearly close kin to the guys who ran the initially William F Buckley-funded Wesleyan Review that popped up during my contemporaneous Wesleyan University days (more on that in a future post).
So I wondered — could Gorsuch have been one of that cohort of young Republicans who were being methodically groomed for leadership — folks like The Dartmouth Review’s racist Dinesh D’Souza, extreme anti-feminist and Muslim-hating Ann Coulter, among many, many others?
Gorsuch, who presents as charming, thoughtful, and smart, appears to have some pretty deep roots in the right-wing incubation machine that has been developing leadership for decades. Gorsuch’s friend and political frenemy Tom Kamber savaged “the Fed” in the Spectator, when both were at Columbia, “The paper’s bias may also stem from the funding and support it receives from groups such as William F. Buckley’s National Review and the Institute for Educational Affairs (later the Madison Center for Educational Affairs), which advocates an extreme-right political philosophy. Just how support from these groups, which fund a network of conservative college publications, including the notorious Dartmouth Review, colors the Fed’s pages is a subject for another column.”
The article further alleges that “…the Fed’s editors have used the newspaper to pursue their personal ambitions. Editors last spring served on the controversial Columbia College Elections Commission at the same time their newspaper was giving the commission favorable coverage.”
Further bolstering the idea of Gorsuch being carefully groomed (and grooming himself) are his own words, cited by The Daily Beast:
As a Columbia undergraduate, Gorsuch was also keenly aware of the stamp his college years would leave on his future ambitions.
“[Students] are coming to the realization that one’s actions in college and one’s conduct as a young adult will be examined in relentless detail should one chose to enter the public sector,” then junior Gorsuch and his colleagues presciently wrote in a November 1987 editorial in The Federalist Paper.
William F. Buckley’s Right-wing trendsetter, The National Review reprinted a D. Keith Mano piece from the 80’s where Gorsuch and his fellow editors make their pitch: ““We’re looking to set up an endowment — we don’t need a $110,000-a-year operating budget like the Dartmouth Review. If we could have just $10,000 a year income, we could ensure the future of The Federalist.” (Gorsuch says) And (Dean) Pride said, “A lot of students are coming to Columbia now on the middle of the fence. There’s room for explosive growth.” I’ll let Neil Gorsuch finish. “We’re probably the last of these quote-unquote conservative journals to pop up on campuses. We’re going to be the last of this era and the most important. The place of this university in the nation’s campus debate is as progenitor of liberal causes. It all starts here. And The Federalist can focus and reshape campus debate in America for the next twenty years.” If you have a spare Macintosh, write me care of National Review, and I’ll send you The Federalist’s address.”
But wait, there’s more: the phrasing and source are unclear and this point is contested, but a recent piece in the Columbia Spectator says that The Fed was funded by the Heritage Foundation. “Since Gorsuch was on the editorial board for the Fed way back in 1987, he was able to share that the Fed was possibly going to file a lawsuit against the rogue creators of a poster that read ‘Students should boycott Coors beer and the Federalist Paper.’ The underlying issue with this? The Fed was actually being funded by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.” Gorsuch appears to have contemporary ties to the Heritage Foundation, including those covered by voting rights journalist Ari Berman in left publication, The Nation:
There’s also controversy about his ties to the Federalist Society, such as this from CommonDreams: “Every Federal judge appointed by both President Bushes was either a member of, or approved by, the Federalist Society. The same is true of Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Alito and Thomas, and the late Justice Scalia. So it comes at no surprise that Gorsuch’s nomination was hatched in their laboratory.”
And bonus! There’s this question Senator Whitehouse had about the “dark money” funding TV ads supporting the nominee.
According to a Democracy Now interview with New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, a good chunk of that “dark money” surely came from the Judicial Crisis Network. “…basically, what you see is that this is an interconnected network that is moving money around in a way to try to hide who the original donors were. And then it’s — and the connections between the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network and Ann Corkery and Neil Corkery and Leonard Leo, and the connection between Judicial Crisis Network and the Wellspring Committee, they’re all interconnected.” According to The Daily Beast, they are connected to the infamous Koch Brothers as well, who founded Wellspring according to People for the American Way.
So, how extreme are these groups? Why is it concerning that Gorsuch admired and aligned with them?
William F Buckley famously said: “…the White community is…entitled because for the time being, it is the advanced race. …the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.”
“Heritage (Foundation)’s role in Gorsuch’s selection should raise doubts that Trump was looking for a mainstream nominee.” writes Brian Tashman for Right Wing Watch, “In fact, Heritage is so far to the right that many Republicans have publicly complained about its extremism. …Heritage (criticized) the Supreme Court ruling that knocked down bans on gay sex, and …staffer Ryan Anderson (is) one of the most outspoken critics of marriage equality and nondiscrimination laws. (Former Congressmember and Heritage President Jim) DeMint has also denounced immigration reform, universal health care and abortion rights, which he said should be banned even in cases of rape or incest.”
The Federalist Society’s extremism has been downplayed, however according to People for the American Way: “The leading voices of the Society share an ideology that is hostile to civil rights, reproductive rights, religious liberties, environmental protection, privacy rights, and health and safety standards, and would strip our federal government of the power to enforce these rights and protections. While individual members of the Society may hold different views, the driving force of the Society-its leadership-is united behind this extreme ideology.”
Given the documented racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and classism of the mentors and organizations who appear to have invested in Gorsuch, and given his formidable sense of destiny and intelligence, it would stand to reason that he has every intention of implementing their dreams. His refusal to answer questions on these topics in his confirmation hearing adds fuel to these concerns.
The New York Times reports, “(Gorsuch) was 15 years old and his mother was a high-ranking official (head of the EPA) in the Reagan administration caught in an ugly showdown with Congress. When she was forced to step down, her reputation in tatters, young Neil was furious.” Given this experience, I believe Gorsuch has carefully mastered himself since his youth to do and say all that is necessary for him to pass this final test.
In fact one of the scariest thing about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, is not how early he became fixated on an extreme conservative ideology, but how early he appears to have realized that in order to advance to the heights of his field, he’d have to carefully communicate that elitist ideology as a “neutral” constitutional interpretation throughout his career.
That’s why it’s crucial that we not take Gorsuch’s evasive Senate hearing responses at face value. He knows exactly what to say and exactly how to position his statements as moderate because he’s been on the vanguard of mainstreaming extreme ideas since his youth. As the Guardian reports, he is a master at evading responsibility for the inhumanity of his decisions by marshalling “…a cold cognitive empathy coupled with a dearth of compassion.”
If confirmed to the Supreme Court he will have a lifetime appointment where he can pursue any agenda or internal moral compass that we might or might not know about. We should be concerned simply based on his pattern of ruling with powerful institutions and against vulnerable individuals. Given his deep, long-standing ties to the right, doesn’t it seem likely his SCOTUS rulings will turn back the clock to the substantially less equal and more squalid pre-New Deal, pre-Corporate regulation, and pre-Civil Rights eras that his mentors yearned for?
At this time in history, with the rise of openly racist ideology in the White House, it is critical that we recognize the threat of a judge who was nurtured by open and more subtle racists and corporatists of the past. Likewise, Gorsuch’s nomination is not happening in a vaccum. The Republican Party is using every means at their disposal to force an unpopular and anti-Democratic agenda on Americans. Thus far the judiciary has provided a check on unconstitutional Trump/GOP policies. What happens to our rights when we can no longer count on the courts to recognize them?
John Nichols of the Nation makes a good point — when Gorsuch declined to comment on the shameful way the Garland appointment was refused a hearing, he made an ideological decision that benefited one side while claiming neutrality. Nichols lays out the implications — if Gorsuch’s nomination succeeds it will embolden Republicans to use similar tactics to take over the judiciary thus removing the last block to a complete takeover of all parts of our government.
We have to recognize the seriousness of the threat to our nation and decide where we stand — are we for or against equal protection under the law? If we stand for equality and value our rights, we call our Congressmembers and demand they oppose Gorsuch — and stand with Democrats when they fillibuster.
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