Black women’s groups marshal to defend and celebrate Biden court pick
Black women’s groups and other advocacy organizations are laying the groundwork to boost President Biden’s forthcoming Supreme Court nominee and fend off Republican attacks against her.
Sources familiar with the organizing and mobilizing efforts revolving around the nominee say there are preparations underway to fundraise, advertise, provide media training and get the voices of Black women on the airwaves and in op-eds in newspapers around the country.
The efforts will also include grassroots and social media mobilizing and organization to show support for the pick.
The preparations represent an effort to build support and excitement for Biden’s first selection to the high court. Organizers say they won’t let Republicans succeed in bringing down the potential candidate.
“We don’t even know who the nominee is, and they’re already attacking her, which is offensive,” said Karen Finney, a prominent Democratic strategist who has helped organize the efforts along with a collective of Black women leaders. “And we think it’s important to have our voices out there in coordination with many others to say ‘It’s time.’”
“This is about representation,” Finney added. “This is about having a Supreme Court with a diversity of lived experiences.”
Another Democrat involved in the efforts put it this way: “We cannot allow this to get marred in foolishness.”
Most of the efforts are happening behind the scenes as Democrats and advocates wait for the president to settle on a nominee.
When Biden was running for the office in 2020, droves of Black women got together to lobby for him to choose one of their own as his running mate. They hammered home the point that Black women helped catapult him to victory, with more than 200 leaders signing on to a letter to help apply pressure.
Since then, hundreds of women get together on a weekly Sunday night call to discuss how they can help push priorities and support Biden’s picks, including Federal Reserve nominee Lisa Cook, among others.
“We have not stopped organizing, but now it’s like it’s been a revival,” said Donna Brazile, a former Democratic National Committee chairwoman who participates in the weekly calls. “It just feels good.”
After Biden announced that he would keep his promise of nominating the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, more than 100 influential Black female leaders wrote a letter to thank him for honoring his promise.
“Nominating a Black woman with the necessary compassion, sense of justice, and brilliant legal mind will bolster the integrity of the Supreme Court by bringing about a balance that ensures the court is more representative of all Americans,” the letter read.
Brandi Colander, a co-founder of the She Will Rise initiative, a group that has been pushing for a Black woman on the high court, said it is doing outreach to state leaders and mulling partnerships with other groups ahead of the announcement. She said the group aims to keep the nomination process “honorable and respectful” and rebut the narratives around an affirmative action nominee.
“We are all committed to making sure that she is honored in this process,” Colander said.
The Black Women’s Roundtable is starting weekly strategy calls with several other groups, according to a spokesperson. The organization is also leading roughly 60 organizations planning an event near the Supreme Court on March 10 as a demonstration of support for the nominee that will feature 200 to 300 Black women.
The White House has been tight-lipped about its strategy and preparations to defend the nominee thus far. Biden is currently mulling a shortlist of candidates, and administration officials have declined to expand on his potential selections in the public domain.
Biden aims to announce a nominee by the end of February — Black History Month — and is believed to have narrowed down his choice to a handful of women, including Ketanji Brown Jackson, J. Michelle Childs and Leondra Kruger.
Biden has selected a team of advisers led by former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D) to help the White House shepherd the nominee through the confirmation process. It’s unclear how involved he or Vice President Harris will be directly in rebutting any attacks on the nominee.
Some Democrats argue that a robust defense of the nominee by Biden would help energize Democratic voters ahead of the midterms.
“This person is going to come under attack, this person is going to get trolled, the Republicans are going to come after her, and the question is, how does Biden handle that?” said Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and director of Hunter College’s public policy program. “If he sort of is very sort of soft on his approach, if he’s a little more hands-off, if he doesn’t look like he’s strong, if he doesn’t look like he has a full-throated support of his nominee, then I think it will drive a lot of voters to have questions about him.”
“But if he nominates this African American woman, as he said, and stands by her with all of the force of the White House and the D.C. establishment, then I think that will be motivating to voters,” Smikle said.
Democrats have already raised alarm over what they view as GOP efforts to smear the nominee before she is formally announced. Some Republicans have denounced Biden’s vow to nominate a Black woman as amounting to affirmative action.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee before which the nominee will sit for hearings, called the pledge “offensive” because it rendered Americans who are not Black women “ineligible.”
“The tragedy here is that the person hasn’t even been announced, and Republicans are already attacking them based on race, gender and qualifications,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy at the progressive group Indivisible.
It’s not clear to what degree Republican criticisms of the nominee will mirror early complaints about Biden’s plans. Leaning too hard on gender- or race-based criticisms could end up backfiring on Republicans.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll released earlier this month found 51 percent support Biden’s decision to nominate a Black woman to replace Justice Stephen Breyer as he retires, while only 28 percent oppose the decision and 23 percent said they didn’t have an opinion.
Democrats are hoping to turn the nomination process into an enthusiasm-driver as the midterm elections draw closer.
“There’s excitement and enthusiasm,” Finney said. “People are joyful. So part of what we want to do is express our joy…This is such a powerful moment in history. There’s also an element in this that is empowering people to realize we did this. If you voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, you made this happen. And that’s important. This is something very visible and tangible.”
Brazile also described a palpable excitement for Biden’s nominee among Black women and expressed hope it would be a unifying and celebratory moment for the country. She argued it should not be a moment for partisanship.
“This is a moment that every child can now see themselves as someone who can lead,” Brazile said. “It’s an opening for a new story.”
This story was updated at 4:04 p.m.