President Biden announced his choice for the Supreme Court earlier this year, nominating Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson, if confirmed, will be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. During Jackson’s confirmation hearings, many partisan issues were brought to the fore.
The problematic discourse surrounding Jackson’s potential place on the Supreme Court began even before she was nominated by President Biden. The selection of Supreme Court judges has always been highly politicized, since the power of judicial review has been solidified. Politicians know the power of the judiciary.
And beyond that, politicians know the power of representation in our governing bodies. President Biden has announced that his choice for the Supreme Court should be a black woman before choosing a specific candidate. Republicans have somewhat overturned the idea that President Biden chose Jackson not on merit, but on the basis of who he is.
Yet identity has always played a role in nominations like this. For example, Reagan’s nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor was intended to win back the support of women from whom he was at the time feeling the backlash. More recently, when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died during Trump’s presidency, Trump did the same by appointing Amy Coney Barrett to pacify white suburban women. All this to say that this phenomenon is not just a Democratic tactic, it is a politicized effort to win over voters.
We at North Wind find this problematic, however, the Biden order announced that it intended to nominate a black woman, before choosing Jackson as its nominee. This sequence of events reinforced the perception that Jackson was not selected primarily on the basis of merit, but that her most important characteristic as a candidate was her physical identity as a black woman.
And that perception is especially frustrating because Jackson is uniquely qualified for a Supreme Court job. We believe that the confirmation of charges hearings and the public discourse surrounding them should certainly have focused more on his upbringing and judicial experience, rather than partisan issues. His curriculum vitae speaks for itself. Biden didn’t just choose someone for this opening, he chose from a small group of people with the right stuff for the job.
In fact, we would like to know: who should have been chosen instead? To reduce Jackson’s candidacy for the job based solely on his gender and skin color is demeaning and disrespectful to someone who has spent his entire life doing exceptional work. Jackson earned this nomination due to his experience and accomplishments first.
Still, the hearings didn’t focus on Jackson’s credentials. When time hasn’t been spent questioning the motivation behind his nomination in the first place, the hearings have been an opportunity for Republicans to air their grievances and highlight the issues they’re struggling with. intention to rely on in future electoral cycles.
In a particularly disturbing incident during interrogation, Senator Marsha Blackburn asked Jackson to define the word “woman” while discussing a transgender athlete. Jackson declined to provide such a definition.
Along with the purity tests, Jackson was subjected (like Senator Lindsey Graham ask if she is religious and that of Ted Cruz questions regarding his position on critical race theory), it seemed that the Republicans were simply looking for ways to get revenge on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh treatment in 2019 while he was the subject of sexual assault allegations. The questioning seemed intended to break Jackson if possible, and if not, to make the confirmation hearings as grueling and humiliating as possible, and to elicit some sort of emotional response.
Still, none of those tactics could have impacted Jackson’s chances of becoming a Supreme Court justice, and she remains on track to hold the job after the Senate vote.