Five Best Thursday Columns

Peter Fulham on the wait for justice, Frank Bruni on the power of the Supreme Court, Irin Carmon on the Democratic Party's abortion platform, Sadhbh Walshe on Texas's death row, and Jelani Cobb on the rise and fall of racial progress.

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Peter Fulham at The New Yorker on the wait for justice Peter Fulham draws a parallel between the posthumous publication of E.M. Forster's Maurice, which grapples with same-sex desire, and the long wait for gay rights, which many of its first supporters did not see fulfilled in their lifetimes. "Maurice is now widely read and taught. ... I remember vividly when I first read it, about a year after I came out, and it served as a hopeful plea from another era: 'Don't give up.' Today's Supreme Court decisions, though far from definitive, are an answer to that plea." At The Dish, Andrew Sullivan adds: "To those who are often tempted to write off America's ability to perfect its union still further, to lead the world in the clarity of its moral and political discourse, and to resist the pull of fundamentalism when it conflicts with human dignity, let me just say: I believe. Because I have seen."

Frank Bruni in The New York Times on the power of the Supreme Court The might of the Supreme Court extends beyond questions of constitutionality, argues Frank Bruni. With their decisions on gay marriage, the court's justices expand our country's potential: "Like all the judgments rendered and statements made by the officials chosen to guide us, the court’s actions set a tone. They send a signal. They alter the climate of what’s considered just and what’s not, of what’s permissible and what’s intolerable, and that change ripples into every last corner of American life, shaping people’s very destinies." For Rich Lowry at Politico, however, this feels like overreach: "Once the high court has declared that the traditional definition is a product of irrational animus, over time it won’t be allowed to stand anywhere. It is Anthony Kennedy's country. We only live in it."

Irin Carmon at Salon on the Democratic Party's abortion platform With the epic filibuster of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, Irin Carmon says, abortion rights have once again occupied the forefront of the Democratic Party's agenda. "For now, as the fight goes forward, abortion rights are no longer consigned to the back of the Democratic coalition, turned into another way to make Republicans seem like the party of the past," she writes. "Davis is a star, and thousands of Texans are not only furious, they've got the attention of the world." Charles C. W. Cooke at National Review questions any kind of broad appeal beyond firmly pro-choice activists: "Americans in general favor Texas’s bill by 48 percent to 44 percent, with women supporting the measure in greater numbers than men. Sixty-two percent of Texans support 'prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.' It is not the friends of Texas’s bill that are out on a limb, but its enemies."

Sadhbh Walshe at The Guardian on Texas's death row Sadhbh Walshe considers the practice of capital punishment in the second-largest state, in particular how it intersects with questions of racial discrimination. "The state's very thoughtful, very clear process appears to send black defendants to their deaths far more readily than white ones. This makes the execution of an African-American woman, after rejecting to review her claim that the process that led to her sentencing and conviction was racially biased, an all too fitting way to mark the grim 500 milestone," Walshe writes, referring to the execution of Kimberly McCarthy, who was convicted of killing her neighbor by an all-white jury. "Whether or not the 'ultimate justice' that has been dispensed in this case was actually justice is another matter." Thomas Cahill at CNN adds: "Texas and a handful of other states continue to take their places among such paragons as North Korea, China, Yemen and Iran in the club of those who attempt to administer the death penalty."

Jelani Cobb at The New Yorker on the rise and fall of racial progress "Americans tend to imagine that the racial history of their nation is a steady line sloping upward; in truth, it looks more like an EKG," writes Jelani Cobb, who weighs the Supreme Court's recent decision to undo a portion of the Voting Rights Act. "In that context, it’s unsurprising that a decision hobbling the Voting Rights Act could come in such close proximity to the first Presidential election in which the percentage of eligible voters who went to the polls was higher among blacks than among whites. Peaks in racial progress tend to come in concert with valleys of backlash." Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect assents: "Many Americans have grown tired of trying to remedy the effects of racism. By striking down Section 4 of the VRA and ignoring the clear words of the Fifteenth Amendment, Roberts is elevating white America’s racial fatigue into constitutional law."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.