The Alitos like a breath of bad air connect J6 and MAGA to what has become Republican orthodoxy…

Vince Rizzo
6 min readJun 12, 2024

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The current political environment has been tainted by an asymmetrical campaign waged by religious zealots and their purblind followers. The Republicans have resorted to offering up their party to a cultish brood of racists, nationalists, and religious extremists. They find the premise of democracy inconvenient. Rights that the Founders determined ‘unalienable’ and ‘for all,” if they exist at all, exist only for them. Justice Samuel Alito has made that point clear in his recent opinions. In one aside in a case the court decided not to hear, Missouri Department of Corrections v. Finney, Alito seemed defensive about his opinions in cases like Obergefell and Dobbs. The case was related to a voir dire in which Finney, a lesbian “presenting as masculine” charged that she was discriminated against in the workplace:

Her lawyers argued that it counts as sex discrimination to treat a masculine-presenting woman differently than a masculine-presenting man. If that legal logic sounds familiar, it should: It matches the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s 2020 Title VII anti-determination decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, which Alito fiercely opposed in dissent.

During the voir dire part of the jury selection process, when the lawyers question potential jurors, Finney’s lawyer asked all the potential jurors if any of them attended “a conservative Christian church” teaching that gay people “shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else” because “what they did” was “a sin.”

… “Alito wrote his statement about the case to make the opposite point, namely that considering homosexuality a sin is not a form of bigotry. He recalled his worry in his Obergefell dissent that finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage would lead to treating religiously motivated condemnation of homosexuality as hate.”

- “Alito Is Worried Gay Rights Could Upstage Religious Ones,” by Noah Feldman

Alito’s response raises the “constitutional right” to one’s religious beliefs above those of homosexuals to practice their own rights decided under Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriages. In a dissenting opinion in the same-sex marriage case, Alito lamented that the court’s decision would be “used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy” which he himself seems to practice in his Finney argument. His inconsistency seems to be the foolish hobgoblin of Alito’s small-mindedness.

The Alito flag affairs reveal an even darker side of Alito’s character. In a public announcement after the incident became known he blamed his wife for publicly flying the colors of the “Stop the Steal” movement on a flagpole outside his D.C. home. She supposedly did this out of a perceived neighborhood pique which makes her appear both foolish and petty. Using a seditionist symbol in response to being pissed at one’s neighbors is like taking a shotgun to a mosquito- a response that screams inappropriate. The second incident, the raising of the Appeal to Heaven flag at the Alito beach home in New Jersey, is even more problematic for the justice and his wife. The flag has a long and storied history that dates back to revolutionary times. Its contemporary connotation, however, places it at the center of the Christian nationalist movement and its adherents who represent a movement that reiterates the grievances that motivated the J6 insurrectionists:

But a flag is not merely a decorative item meant for personal enjoyment, like a painting hung in your home. When flown in public, flags become signals to the public: They are intended to send messages about one’s affinities and allegiances I do not know the Alitos’ reasons for flying the Appeal to Heaven flag for several months last summer, but I have spent the past three years researching the Christian symbols, theologies, and ideologies of the January 6th rioters…

While the Appeal to Heaven flag is rooted in American history, it has taken on a whole raft of new connotations in the past decade. And in that timespan, it has also grown far more popular than it has been since it was first flown. These flags have proliferated in public buildings and government offices not as a celebration of American independence, but as a coded endorsement of an ongoing Christian nationalist crusade, hidden in plain sight.

- The Bulwark, “What the Appeal to Heaven Flag Really Means,” by Matthew D. Taylor

The Alitos in their public demonstrations of solidarity to insurrectionist movements in general, and the Trump MAGA movement in particular, have inadvertently done what that movement has been attempting to distance themselves from ever since January 6, 2021. The Alitos as stalwart Republicans and Trump supporters provide the link between the J6 anti-democratic movement and MAGA that has existed sub rosa throughout Trump’s time as a public irritant.

The justice’s public denials, the poorly conceived explanation blaming his wife, not only affected the Alito’s reputations, but have exacerbated the court’s recent decline in public perception. As a Pew Research Center study has found, the Supreme Court has lost its appearance of impartiality. Half of respondents see the court as “conservative” while only seven percent describe it as “liberal.” Four in ten see the court as moderate or impartial- a perspective that is hard to argue since the three Trump-era appointments of extremist judicial appointments.

While the decline in the court’s public perception has been in decline (54% now look favorably on the court and its decisions), its falling reputation has played positively in the far right’s assault on faith and trust in all public institutions. The anti-democratic sentiment among voters translates into the grievance-driven campaigns being waged by Republican candidates throughout the nation. Despite their losses since 2017 in congressional and presidential races, the lure of another chance to remake government in their likeness has proved too much for the GOP which has lost its rational center to the MAGA autocrats-in-waiting. With the rightward leaning of our highest court and the dissembling opinions that have placed a target on rights previously affirmed by earlier justices, democracy and its most basic freedoms are in jeopardy.

Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have reduced the Robert’s Court to new lows denying rights that were once deemed inherent but are now in question because of their rulings and dissenting opinions. In the latter case both justices have signaled their opposition to other matters of settled law that are sure to be tried in other jurisdictions on their way to the Supreme Court. The religious extremism that has ensnared the court and the corruption that the religious right has used to buy its conscience is now in league with the likes of Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Steven Miller, and Donald Trump. They will cynically bargain with the earthly gods of power to further their goals of dismantling our constitutional democracy dressing their autocratic reverie in liturgical costume.

Sam Alito’s black robes are no longer symbolic of his station as Justice of the Supreme Court. Those who are denied their inherent rights include citizens who have most needed the court’s protections as a hedge against bigotry and hatred. He has now become an avatar for the intolerance that breeds the hatred and bigotry fueling our culture wars. In a recent conversation that was secretly recorded by Rolling Stone reporter Lauren Windsor. Alito agreed with her that our nation has strayed from a place of “godliness” of his perception of recent events, His opinions leave little doubt that his personal religious coda, the doctrines of his faith, supersede the Establishment Clause in our constitution that requires a separation of church and state which affords the protection of personal beliefs to all regardless of religion.

For Sam and Martha-Ann whether they suffer temporal consequences for their unyielding bigotry and hate- of women, gays, the current cultural zeitgeist- is of less concern than the suffering of their victims. Martha-Ann was later recorded by Ms. Windsor ruminating judgmentally about flags of groups she disagrees with. She even imagined in her head a flag she would create and fly someday. It would be orange and yellow flames on a white background and across the middle the would be written Italian word for “shame.” The irony of her imaginary flag and its message had obviously escaped her.

For whom would she fly her flag? For the profligate president who paid off porn stars and called for the sacking of the Capitol? For the racist neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville with anti-Semitic chants? For the Justice whose opinion in Dobbs that relied on 17th-century thinking and one of whose primary sources for this dubious framework is a 1732 journal called

In Italian, the noun alito means breath. In this case the Italian phrase avere l’alito cattivo (bad or evil breath) captures a sentiment that describes both the evil and lack of awareness of the fusty couple with a “fun with flags” mentality.

Originally published at https://vincerizzo.substack.com.

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Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.