Why Justice Alito’s new audio recording is so disturbing

There was never any doubt about the political views of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, long before the flags of Trumpist insurrection flew over his homes. His rulings and questions during oral arguments earned him his reputation as the most partisan conservative judge, willing to bend the law to the interests of the Republican Party.

So when a surreptitious recording of Alito was released Monday — combining two discussions between Alito and someone he thought was a conservative, but who was actually a liberal activist — most of his comments were quite consistent with what we already knew about him. It’s no surprise, for example, that Alito agrees with activist Lauren Windsor that the United States needs to return to “godliness.”

But Alito shared for the first time a disturbing belief – one that is equally shared by millions of people on both sides of our political divide, one that makes politics more intense and toxic.

There is no final victory in a democracy.

At one point in the conversation, Windsor asked Alito a question about political polarization. “I don’t know if we can negotiate with the left in the way necessary to end polarization,” she said. “I think it’s about winning.” Alito agreed: “I think you’re probably right.” (Alito did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.)

Then justice pushed the argument even further: “One side or the other is going to win,” he declared. Maybe we can find “a way to live together peacefully,” he admitted, “but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really cannot be compromised. They really cannot be compromised. So it’s not like you’re going to split the difference.

This is a far more troubling notion than most people seem to imagine, especially coming from a Supreme Court justice. When we talk about the fundamental architecture of politics and the great ideological struggle, one side is most certainly not go win. And every powerful decision-maker – especially those in the judiciary – should recognize this.

There is no final victory in a democracy. Even if you hate your political opponents, they’re not going to go away. If you are liberal, there will always be conservatives. And vice versa.

We are all apt to hope in vain that with the right combination of persuasive argumentation and intelligent political strategy, our political struggle could reach a final conclusion, that all political questions would be resolved in our favor and that a glorious future awaits us. is announced. pass. But most of us understand that a final political battle will never happen.

Democrats are not claiming that the left or the right will disappear depending on who wins in November.

Unfortunately, too many on the right – including Alito – think otherwise. Any Democratic victory, even those led by ordinary center-left politicians like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Joe Biden, is seen as the literal end of America. And if you take this idea seriously, you have raised the political stakes to a worrying level. This would mean that the conflict ends in annihilation, either ours or theirs. Either we will win and our enemies will be destroyed, or they will win and we will be destroyed. And since the final battle is upon us, almost nothing is off limits.

If you doubt this, just listen to a Donald Trump rally or a typical hour of conservative radio talk show. The apocalyptic warnings are constant: If we lose this election, the grassroots are told, it will not only be bad, it will be cataclysmic. “The country is finished” if Biden is re-elected, Trump says. “You will no longer have a country.” Christianity will be outlawed, murderous immigrants will invade your town, a combination of anarchy and iron-fisted government oppression will prevail, and America will cease to exist.

But aren’t there Democrats issuing similar apocalyptic warnings that a Trump victory in November would mean the end of democracy? To some extent, but there are two differences. First, Democrats are not claiming that the left or the right will disappear depending on who wins in November. Second, Trump and his allies are very explicitly laying out a radical plan for something that looks a lot like fascism; they hardly hide their contempt for our constitutional system and their desire to dismantle it. If anyone else were the presumptive Republican nominee, with a standard conservative agenda, it would be a completely different story.

In a democracy, politics never stops. We will continue to discuss, debate and fight. A party may achieve some or even many of its goals. Some political questions are settled by the victory of one side. But there is no final battle in a democracy, there is no moment when politics is over. Understanding that you can lose today but win tomorrow – then lose again and win again – is essential to a commitment to the democratic system. Give it up, and soon you’ll be beating up the cops and breaking down the Capitol doors.

Alito appears to reject this commitment. He wasn’t talking about a particular issue when he said “one side or the other is going to win,” but about the ongoing struggle between the right and the left. He seems to think that the battle is reaching its climax and that he will do his part to help his side prevail. For him, the Supreme Court is just another theater in the great war against liberalism. This is why he defiles the court every time he dons his robes and goes into battle.