SCOTUS Stirring the Right-Wing Pot: The Resurgence of ‘Legal Vigilantism’

As the United States Supreme Court edges progressively to the right, emboldened right-wing voters are taking it as a clarion call for action. According to political pundits, the court’s latest ruling against race-based affirmative action is likely to fuel their fight against progressive principles.

Matt Dallek, a professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, opines that this perceived victory will stir the hunger for more wins among far-right supporters. He elaborates, “For decades,” right-wingers have been “on the losing side, and they don’t foresee reversing what they consider a disastrous state of affairs in merely two supreme court terms. This is a much larger project.”

This renewed zeal has given rise to a form of “legal vigilantism,” as termed by Lawrence Rosenthal, Chair of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies. This aggressive, lawsuit-threatening tactic aims to pressure universities and private institutions into compliance with new conservative rulings.

The dismantling of affirmative action has prompted Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, to caution about a possible path toward bigotry. He stresses the risk of such court rulings opening floodgates to “all kinds of vile and racially bigoted statements.”

“Extremist groups have received a green light to hop from one lily pond of hate to an even more toxic and nauseating one,” Levin warns, adding that “even strands of violent extremism could find their way into civic discourse.”

Beyond race, the far-right’s newfound empowerment is also rippling into the field of LGBTQ+ rights. Lindsay Schubiner, Director of Programs at Western States Center, highlights the growth of anti-LGBTQ+ groups like Moms for Liberty. With its 100,000+ self-reported members, this group is notably effective in opposing inclusive policies in schools. Schubiner explains that the far-right’s ultimate aim is a wide-scale exclusion of LGBTQ+ people from public life, including access to services and roles in elected office or community leadership.

Dallek further underlines the role of grievance in the far-right’s narrative. Whether it’s about abortion, perceived persecution of Trump, or a fear of the so-called ‘woke mob’, there always seems to be an internal enemy in their crosshairs. He elaborates, “There’s a pervasive sense that the people in power are corrupt and un-American, that they are tearing at the fabric of traditional values.”

This Supreme Court ruling, Levin anticipates, will be twisted to bolster racial discrimination against Black people, while playing into the narrative of white nationalists that white people have been cheated – feeding into their story of white supremacy. This worrying trend underscores the need for vigilance and sustained advocacy for racial and social justice, in the face of this surging tide of ‘legal vigilantism.’