In a deadly attempt to help Donald Trump hold on to power, several thousand people attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, parroting the lie that the 2020 election was stolen by the lawful winner, President Joe Biden. Dozens of insurrectionists at the Capitol adopted upside-down American flags, a traditional naval distress signal, as a symbol of this so-called “Stop the Steal” campaign. And across the country, some people—people who I assume had enough sense to refrain from actively participating in a coup, but not enough sense to oppose a violent assault on multiracial democracy—raised their own inverted American flags in solidarity

One such person is a member of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s household. The New York Times reported last week that an upside-down flag was hoisted high in the Alitos’ front yard just days after the insurrection. 

Since then, Alito has not disavowed the lie that the election was stolen, or denied that the upside-down flag signaled support for the violent, election-denying mob. All he’s done is claim that he wasn’t involved, and that it was his “distraught” wife who put up the flag because a neighbor was rude to her.

A sitting Supreme Court justice showing public support for overthrowing the government while deciding cases about whether Trump will face any accountability for overthrowing the government is a colossal failure for the legal system’s promises of equal and impartial justice under law. And even some Republican senators, who are ideologically inclined to accept Alito’s inelegant toss of his wife under the bus, are finding this hard to defend. Lindsey Graham, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Alito’s behavior does not show “good judgment,” and Utah Senator Mitt Romney said, “Obviously it looks very unfortunate, and we ought to take a good look at it.”

Yet prominent legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU Law School, is giving Alito the benefit of the doubt. In an interview with The Washington Post, Gillers characterized Alito’s justification as “hard to believe,” but he found it “impossible” to believe that Alito “knowingly chose to fly the flag upside down knowing its political message.” 

Gillers’ analysis requires one to put aside everything they know about Alito as a person, and everything they know about the people who supported the insurrection. Alito is an old white guy and a lifelong Republican. As of March 2023, over half of Republicans believed that the insurrectionists were participating in “legitimate political discourse,” and as of January 2024, two-thirds of Republicans support pardons for the people who forced their way into the Capitol. Other polls from the past few years found that two-thirds of Republicans believe that Biden did not win the 2020 election, and two-thirds say they will not trust the results of the 2024 election if Donald Trump doesn’t win. It is actually very easy to believe that a wealthy Republican white man in his 70s would be a coup-sympathizer. It only becomes hard to believe if you assume that the man’s position as a Supreme Court justice makes him exceptional.

It does not. And, in fact, Alito’s behavior on and off the bench only underscores that he is exactly the type of Newsmax-pilled culture warrior who would buy into “Stop the Steal” nonsense. During Trump v. United States oral arguments last month, Alito went to bat for the idea of broad “presidential immunity,” suggesting that it would be destabilizing for democracy to hold Trump accountable for his bevy of alleged crimes. A decade after Obergefell v. Hodges recognized equal marriage rights under the Constitution, Alito continues to whine that homophobes are unfairly “labeled as bigots”; after writing the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, he described himself as engaged in a “battle to protect religious freedom in an increasingly secular society.” 

Yesterday, Chris Geidner at Law Dork reported that Alito sold off some of his stock in Anheuser-Busch in the midst of a Libs of TikTok-driven boycott of the company for the sin of partnering with a trans influencer to sell beer during Pride Month. Getting mad at something you saw on Facebook and treating the existence of queer people as a personal affront is typical embarrassing, braindead Boomer behavior.

Sam Alito’s whole schtick is being an aggrieved reactionary, and it is aggrieved reactionaries who were and are most likely to support the insurrection. The only difference is that most such cranks can only holler from their front porch; Alito gets to yell from the bench.

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