by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You wouldn’t know it from the press coverage surrounding him, but Clarence Thomas has the highest rate of favorability among sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices. That’s according to a new Economist/YouGov poll.
Not only is Thomas the justice for whom the highest percentage of those surveyed have an opinion (67%, compared to 66% for No. 2 Brett Kavanaugh). Thomas also gets “very or somewhat favorable” marks from 37%, just ahead of Sonia Sotomayor’s 36%. No other justice gets a favorability rating above 31%. Five of the nine justices have favorability ratings below 30%.
Only Sotomayor leads Thomas in the spread between favorable and unfavorable scores (36/26, 10 points, for Sotomayor versus 37/30, 7 points, for Thomas).
Thomas’ overall lead is based on his clear favorability advantage among Republicans. With 59% favorability among that group of voters, the longest-serving Republican appointee tops the court’s most recent arrival, Amy Coney Barrett (55%). Kavanugh (53%) is the only other justice topping 50% among GOP voters.
Now seems like a good time to revisit some words of wisdom from the nation’s most popular Supreme Court justice, delivered in 2016.
I often wondered why my grandparents remained such model citizens, even when our country’s failures were so obvious. In the arrogance of my early adult life, I challenged my grandfather and doubted America’s ideals. He bluntly asked: “So, where else would you live?” Though not a lettered man, he knew that our constitutional ideals remained our best hope, and that we should work to achieve them rather than undermine them. “Son,” he said, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” That is, don’t discard what is precious along with what is tainted.
Today, when it seems that grievance rather than responsibility is the main means of elevation, my grandfather’s beliefs may sound odd or discordant. But he and others like him at the time resolved to conduct themselves in a way consistent with America’s ideals. They were law-abiding, hardworking, and disciplined. They discharged their responsibilities to their families and neighbors as best they could. They taught us that despite unfair treatment, we were to be good citizens and good people. If we were to have a functioning neighborhood, we first had to be good neighbors. If we were to have a good city, state, and country, we first had to be good citizens. The same went for our school and our church. We were to keep in mind the corporal works of mercy and the great commandment: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”