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Photo Illustration: A version of Wordle with GOP buzzwords
Justine Goode; MSNBC

The GOP is playing legal word games to build their right-wing world

Several recent right-wing court rulings rely on the dumbest and most dubious readings of law imaginable.


Americans are firmly in the clutches of right-wing idiocy

Here I’m not so much saying “conservatives are dumb” as I’m saying conservative interpretations of law are deliberately simple-minded so as to reject the nuance needed in a democratic society. Call it “calculated judicial stupidity,” if you will. 

Regardless of how you name it, understand that it’s putting Americans’ safety and civil rights in danger. In so many ways, conservative lawmakers and legal minds are engaging in word games to advance their right-wing vision and evade accountability for alleged misconduct. 

Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion

The Supreme Court's likely decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a prime example of these games. In the draft majority opinion leaked last week, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” 

Of course, there’s a reason the Constitution makes no reference to abortion: The document was affirmed by a bunch of racist white men, many of whom owned and sold humans as property and all of whom denied women (of all shades) equal rights. They tried to carve out a democracy for white men like themselves. And Alito apparently thinks we should be policed by their narrow focus. The founders’ willful ignorance is apparently our sin to bear. 

As many online were quick to note, there are a bunch of things Americans have grown accustomed to that aren’t mentioned in the Constitution. The words “filibuster,” “executive privilege” and “Air Force” don’t appear in the text either, but don’t hold your breath waiting for Alito to play similar word games to gut any of those. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's eligibility lawsuit

We saw another example of this kind of wordplay from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conspiracy theory-pushing Republican from Georgia. A group of Georgia voters filed a lawsuit in March challenging Greene's re-election bid, arguing she's ineligible to run for office because of her support for Jan. 6 rioters. (She's denied helping to plan the attack.)

Greene feigned ignorance during a hearing last month connected to the lawsuit and was ultimately rewarded on Friday when a judge and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — a Republican — said her candidacy could go forward. Greene had repeatedly testified that she “couldn’t recall” when asked about her extremist rhetoric, including whether she spoke with White House officials about Jan. 6 ahead of the attack and whether she suggested then-President Donald Trump impose martial law.

Text messages Greene allegedly sent to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows clearly show Greene encouraged the White House to think about using “Marshall law” (an apparent misspelling of martial law).

“I don’t know on those things," Greene allegedly wrote to Meadows after her "Marshall law" note. "I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know.”

But Greene claimed last month that the "I don't know" part of the reported text message excused her from guilt.

Again, we see right-wingers benefiting from semantics and an extremely generous interpretation of the law that permits and encourages their anti-democratic power grabs. 

Federal mask mandate ruling

Remember the federal court decision striking down the Biden administration’s mask requirement for people on public transportation? That was yet another exhibition of right-wing legal stupidity. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle for the Middle District of Florida — a Trump-appointee deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association in 2020 — ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was unauthorized to issue a mask mandate for transportation because, in her view, the agency is only responsible for “sanitation,” which she said is “limited to cleaning measures.” 

“Wearing a mask cleans nothing,” Mizelle claimed, adding her belief that the CDC’s sanitation is “limited to property.” 

It’s obviously untenable for the CDC’s jurisdiction to be limited to making sure countertops are clean or something like that. And Mizelle was rightly mocked for her ignorance. But the point is that her ruling is still the law of the land. And it’s just one among several numb-skulled, dubious conservative legal opinions shaping American life.