Samuel Alito, Italian Prime Minister
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Photo credit: Italy in US / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Nobody should be shocked that the Alitos displayed a “Stop the Steal” symbol in front of their house. The real surprise is that they took it down.

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Political insiders gasped when news broke that an upside-down flag, a symbol for the supporters of the “Stop the Steal” lie, was flown at the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito just days after Donald Trump’s coup attempt.

Really, people were somehow shocked by this?

If anything, it is surprising that the Alitos took down that flag eventually and are not still proudly flying it to this day… perhaps with neon signs pointing to it or one of those high-powered beams that night clubs use so that everybody knows where to find them.

There are a couple of reasons why we think that would have been a more likely outcome (than Alito trying to throw his wife under the bus to maintain a vague illusion of impartiality).

The first is that he is not only a fervent conservative (to put it mildly) but may also be the most scheming justice in recent history.

As a staunch right-winger, he is not alone on the bench. There is Clarence Thomas, for example, who has his own Stop the Steal connection, i.e., a wife who participated in the coup attempt.

But there is no indication that he is pursuing some grander plot. Thomas seems content to be showered with lavish gifts and extravagant vacations… and to then take the most conservative position when ideological matters come before the court.

Not Alito, who seems to have an extreme agenda and is pursuing it vigorously.

He is the most likely leaker of the draft ruling (which he wrote) that rolled back abortion rights in the US. The theory is that maybe some of the other conservative justices were waffling and might have still changed their minds before issuing such a momentous decision. However, after the leak, their hands were forced. At that point, they could not have gone back without major backlash from the right.

At the time, while pretending to be the victim somehow, Alito told The Wall Street Journal that he has a “pretty good idea” who was responsible for the leak.

No kidding, Sam. I also have a pretty good idea who ate the last chocolate chip cookie that my family left for Santa on Christmas Eve when I was eight. It was delicious.

Alito also uses conservative and right-wing media outlets for his purposes, primarily the Journal and Fox News, for example when news was about to break that he went on his own, billionaire-funded trip and he tried to get ahead of the story.

That strategy was once again on display this week, when he only provided The New York Times with a terse written statement about the upside-down flag but then gave a more detailed “explanation” to Fox News, where he could be sure nobody was going to follow up on the holes in his account.

Even in the most charitable light, the takeaway seems to be that the Alitos raised their upside-down flag to respond to a neighbor exercising their First Amendment rights.

The second reason why it is surprising the flag came down at all is that, no matter what kind of ethical violations the justices are committing, they never face any repercussions.

Thomas and Alito should have recused themselves from any case involving Trump’s attempted coup, and there should at least be an official investigation into the fancy vacations they took (and, in Thomas’s case, why rich friends seem to be showering him with gifts).

However, since that isn’t happening, and Republicans will block any legislative efforts to set up a system that would ensure at least some sort of accountability for the nine justices, Alito and Thomas can continue to do as they please… while the public’s confidence in the court keeps eroding.


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