Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the US senate on a 53-47 vote to fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court that will be created when retiring justice Stephen Breyer steps down in July. It is quite incredible that it has taken so long to have a woman of color on the bench. I have not blogged about it because it was almost certain that she would be confirmed and there was nothing about her nomination that was controversial, as she was very much in the legal mainstream and had no skeletons in her closet.
But the Republican party of Trump decided to make up outlandish stuff about her . Why? Because that is what they do. And their task of persuading their rabid base that Jackson was unqualified and even evil was made easier by the fact she was a woman and a person of color because we know that white men have the best legal minds and that everyone else must be an imposter, right?
What was their weapon of choice? The claim that she was soft on pedophilia, even though there was no basis for such a incediary claim.
The bareknuckle tactics used by some Republicans to discredit Jackson underscored just how far to the right the party has drifted and may foreshadow a new, disturbing “normal” for American politics.
After Jackson’s nomination was announced in February, Tucker Carlson, the far-right Fox News host, took it a step further by demanding that the White House release her score on the LSAT, a standardized test for law school applicants.
Carlson’s complaint seemed to ignore that Jackson is considered one of the most qualified supreme court nominees in recent history. She has served as a supreme court clerk, a public defender, a district court judge, a member of the US Sentencing Commission and a federal appeals judge.
The beginning of Jackson’s confirmation hearings last month spurred a new, alarming line of attack from certain Republicans. In a Twitter thread shared days before the start of the hearings, Josh Hawley, a member of the Senate judiciary committee, claimed Jackson had a “pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes”.
Hawley’s claims were quickly debunked by factcheckers and even conservative legal experts, who showed that Jackson’s sentencing practices for child abuse image offenders were in the mainstream for federal judges. One White House official dismissed Hawley’s claims as an “embarrassing, QAnon-signaling smear”, referring to the baseless conspiracy theory that Democratic leaders are members of an evil cabal involved in child sex trafficking. The left-leaning organization Media Matters reported that Hawley’s comments quickly spread on internet forums linked to QAnon.
But instead of abandoning the accusation when it was proved to be demonstrably false and potentially dangerous, more Republican senators joined Hawley in grilling Jackson about her handling of child abuse cases.
Of course, whenever you look into the swamps of the Republican party, you are sure to find bottom-feeder senator Lindsey Graham, going with whatever evil current is flowing, and this occasion was no exception.
Lindsey Graham, who voted to confirm Jackson to the US court of appeals for the DC circuit last year, told her during the hearings, “Every judge who does what you are doing is making it easier for the children to be exploited.”
When I think of Graham, the words unprincipled, hypocritical, odious, and unctuous immediately come to mind but I think that Tara Setmayer, a former House Republican communications adviser who left the party in 2020, provided a perfect metaphor for him, saying “Lindsey Graham is the epitome of a political parasite. He needs to have a host in order to thrive. He did it with John McCain. He did it again with Donald Trump. And now he’s doing it with the Maga/QAnon base in order to maintain relevancy.”
‘Political parasite’. Exactly.
Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney were three Senate Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson and for this act of apostasy they were blasted by the unhinged Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“Any Senator voting to confirm #KJB is pro-pedophile just like she is,” Greene said on Twitter. “You are either a Senator that supports child rapists, child pornography, and the most vile child predators. Or you are a Senator who protects children and votes NO to KJB!”
I have written before that pedophilia has become one of the rallying cries of the far right, who are exploiting the natural fears of parents for the safety of their children and the general abhorrence that everyone feels about pedophilia to use as a gateway to recruit people into more general paranoid beliefs. To me frivolously flinging around this kind of serious allegation is a sign that they do not seriously care about the issue but see it as merely an inflammatory trope to be exploited
Samantha Bee excoriates those Republicans who are shamelessly exploiting the pedophilia charges to curry favor with the QAnon crowd.
Jackson, like seven of her colleagues on the court, graduated from either either Harvard or Yale law schools. Only Amy Coney Barrett is not part of that group, having graduated from the University of Notre Dame. A relatively minor diversity feature is that Brown’s religious background is self-described as ‘non-denominational Protestant’. Six of the other justices (Roberts, Sotomayor, Thomas, Barrett, Kavanaugh, Alito) are Catholic. Elena Kagan is Jewish. Justice Gorsuch grew up Catholic but now attends Protestant services. Retiring justice Breyer, whom Brown once clerked for, comes from a Jewish family but has long been thought to be not religious.
But Jackson’s background has other important elements of diversity, though. Unlike her, none of the other justices have served as a trial court judge or a defense attorney. She has also been a public defender, which is a good sign.