Justices Sotomayor, Gorsuch Warn That Divisions Threaten U.S. Democracy

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Two U.S. Supreme Court justices of opposing philosophies called for a return to civil discourse, warning that societal divisions and the spread of false information via social media pose a threat to American democracy.

In a recorded event released Wednesday and sponsored by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch lamented the nation’s collective inability to listen to one another, calling it a national security threat in a politically fractious time.

“This is the scariest of times, and the most exciting of times,” Sotomayor said in the video conversation last month. “We had one of highest turnouts in voting the last election. Yet at the same time we see some of the cracks in our system.”

The Democratic-appointed Sotomayor and Republican-appointed Gorsuch have formed an unlikely friendship on the court and frequently make joint appearances to discuss their shared priority of civic education.

“We have a great deal of partisan, very heated debate going on, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Sotomayor said. “But it can turn into an awful thing, into something that destroys the fabric of our community if we don’t learn to talk to each other.”

Gorsuch said that democracy is “not an automatic thing” and could crumble if Americans don’t tend to it.

“Our enemies know this, even if we don’t,” he said. “And it is no surprise that a lot of the false information spread on social media is deliberately spread by our enemies to sow disagreement internally in the country.”

“If we allow them to destroy our sense of ‘we the people,’ our sense of community, our sense of our shared liberties that we love and treasure, that’s hard to come back from.”

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