Supreme Court nominations and confirmations have always been patently political. Candidate Ronald Reagan, attempting to refute charges that he was insensitive to women’s rights, said he would name a woman to the highest court. It helped him secure the female vote. He followed through and nominated the first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. In 2020, Donald Trump, seeking female voters and trying to shift attention from his handling of the pandemic, announced he would name a woman to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He nominated Amy Coney Barrett.
So, what’s the hullaballoo about President Biden vowing to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court? It is, of course, the fact that he is going to nominate a Black woman.
Race is the sine qua non (indispensible requirement) of modern Republican politics. All the Republican state voter restriction laws are fundamentally aimed at suppressing the votes of people of color. Trump’s incitement of the January 6th insurrection was ultimately based on his racism. He falsely blamed and continues to blame states with significant Black voting populations for stealing the election from him. (And, the insurrectionists were heavily made up of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.)
Not surprisingly, the right-wing echo chamber was quick to pounce, suggesting that a Black woman would be an affirmative action “racist” nomination. Fox News host Tucker Carlson called it “identity politics” that would bring about “tribal warfare.” (As if tribal warfare in American does not already exist in large part promoted by Carlson, other right-wing pundits, and Republican lawmakers.) Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) said that Biden’s pick would be a beneficiary of a race-based affirmative action “quota.” Representative Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) called it “the most racist thing,” and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) characterized it as an offensive “insult to Black women.”
Clearly, candidate Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court was made to secure the Black vote, especially the Black female vote. It worked. With the support of the Black community, Biden won. Supreme Court nominations are patently political. They are designed by the party in power to satisfy their respective bases and ensure their agendas. Does anybody really think that justices Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch were the best legal choices for the court?
Elections have consequences, especially so regarding the Supreme Court. We clearly learned this regarding Senator Mitch McConnell’s handling of both President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland and Trump’s of Justice Barrett. McConnell, then the leader of the Senate, held up Garland’s hearing for close to a year (270 days), saying it was too close to the election and that the people should decide who gets nominated to the court. He then turned around and rushed Barrett through in 27 days, while the country was already casting votes for the next president.
Don’t be distracted by all the political rhetoric surrounding Biden’s forthcoming nomination. The leading candidates are all well-qualified jurists. Judge Ketanji Brown now serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is considered the second-most powerful federal court in the country. She clerked for retiring Supreme Court Justice Breyer.
Justice Leondra Kruger was the youngest person to be appointed to the California Supreme Court. She clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. She argued 12 cases in front of the Supreme Court representing the government.
J. Michelle Childs is a judge on South Carolina’s federal court. She served as a state court trial judge on the South Carolina Circuit. Biden nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; the nomination remains pending.
Rather than getting caught up in the politics of Biden’s nomination, it would better serve the country if we focus on the politics of the High Court. The Supreme Court’s failure to follow its own precedent of Roe v. Wade and enjoin Texas’ clearly unconstitutional anti-abortion law should concern all of us, regardless of how we feel about abortion. Roe, at the time of that hearing, was the legal precedent, the law of the land. Legally, it should have been followed. The fact that it was not means that politics has infected the Supreme Court.
The Court needs more diversity, representative of our multi-racial and multicultural democracy. A Black woman will not only be a milestone, she will be a needed addition.
Remember! This politicized court is poised to overturn both abortion rights and affirmative action. Elections and the resulting nominations and confirmations of Supreme Court Justices have consequences.