Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: Without fear or favor
As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden promised to appoint a well-qualified Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he delivered big time as president with the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
She has served ably as a federal district court judge before she moved to the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. She also has unique experience as a public defender, which is a vital resume item in a flawed criminal justice system that often convicts innocent people because of prosecutorial misconduct or racial bias.
The president’s choice of the first Black woman to sit on the high court and her confirmation hearings vividly illustrate that the Republican Party is stuck in the past while Democrats change with the times.
Her nomination is a crystal-clear reflection of the dramatic changes in the complexion of American society. The 2020 U.S. Census revealed that more than two out of five Americans are not white. The agency estimates that the population of the U.S. will be majority non-white by 2044.
The high court has had two Black male justices in its history, but Jackson’s confirmation to the court would make her the first Black female justice. Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the only Hispanic judge to ever to serve on the Supreme Court bench. When Jackson ascends to the Supreme Court, it will look more like the rest of the nation and hopefully will enable it to listen to its concerns.
Fevered opposition to the supremely qualified nominee’s elevation accentuates the GOP’s hostility toward people of color, which rose to new levels during Donald Trump’s presidency. Rather than using this forum to appeal to minority voters, the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are intent on reinforcing its base of older white voters who resist the inevitability of social change.
The nominee is well qualified and there are no questions about her character. Rejection of her nomination after the promotion of scandal-plagued Brett Kavanaugh might satisfy the GOP base but it would be a slap in the face to Americans who believe that qualifications and character matter more than ideology.
Like everything else that happens in Washington, these hearings have political implications.
GOP dismissal of her ascension to the Supreme Court could motivate black voters to vote in the midterms, which will lessen Republican opportunities to take control of Congress next year. Black women were more supportive of Biden and Democratic congressional candidates than voters in any other demographic group.
The GOP is making an effort to appeal to minority voters by running black candidates in 2022 but the party’s take no prisoners opposition to Jackson’s promotion will undermine those efforts. Republicans undermine their own Black candidates when they viciously attack the first female Black nominee for the highest court in the land.
In the face of vicious questioning, Jackson demonstrated that she is a lot more professional than her Republican inquisitors. She was the icon of courage under fire which is a key quality in Supreme Court justices. Her demeanor underscored her commitment to decide cases without fear or favor while committee Republicans filled the session with fear and curried favor with hard-right primary voters.
The tone of questioning from GOP committee members were in stark contrast to the demeanor of the cool, calm and collected nominee.
Potential GOP 2024 presidential hopefuls like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are seemingly doing everything they can to reinforce their right-wing credentials. The nominee serves on the board of directors of a Washington, D.C. private school and Cruz aggressively questioned her about a book on racial justice that is available there. Hawley fixated on sentencing in child porn cases even though Jackson’s sentences were within federal guidelines.
Then there is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who more than anyone else (except for Donald Trump) best represents the devolution of the GOP. There was a time when Graham along with the late Sen. John McCain was the voice of reason in his party. But at one point during the hearing, he became so agitated that he just walked out. These days, he is simply a shill for the extremists in his party. McCain must be rolling in his grave.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) jumped into the crazy pool when he said “yes” to states having the right to ban interracial marriages. His comments were a rude insult to the many thousands of Americans who are partners in biracial unions — and undermined the civil rights of all people of color.
One brave Republican voice, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) dismissed the attacks on the judge by saying “There’s no ‘there,’ there.”
These are supposed to be hearings, but Republicans refuse to listen to the voices of change in American society. Time is not on the not on the GOP’s side if it continues to ignore the changing nature of the nation. The party whistles past its own graveyard at its own peril.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon
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