On Sunday, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reversed course on a summer pledge to release a list of names identifying potential candidates for the Supreme Court in the event of a vacancy under his presidency.
“We can’t ignore the cherished system of checks and balances,” Biden said during a campaign speech in Philadelphia. “That includes this whole business of releasing a list of potential nominees I would put forward.”
The announcement marks a clean-cut reversal from the former vice president’s pledge in June to unveil a list of black women as possible contenders.
“We are putting together a list of a group of African American women who are qualified and have the experience to be on the court,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del., before the campaign pulled the 77-year-old away. “I am not going to release that until we go further down the line in vetting them as well.”
Yet the list never came, and now it never will.
Dr. Shelby Steele, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who specializes in race issues, called Biden’s decision to backtrack on a specific list of names while maintaining the nominee will be a black woman “absurd.”
“Race is completely objective. It tells you nothing about a person’s character, track record, or beliefs,” Steele said in a Monday statement. “This is a desperate attempt by VP Biden to get more of the black vote less than 60 days before the election, and at a time in our country when the issue of race has too often been made into a hammer of violence, this tactic needs to be called out for what it is.”
President Donald Trump first released his list of potential Supreme Court nominees during the late phase of the Republican primary in 2016 to reassure skeptical conservatives of his commitment to pursuing a conservative agenda once in office. Trump updated the list three days before the first presidential debate in September to include Neil Gorsuch, and again in November the following year to include Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom later joined the bench.
Trump updated the list again earlier this month, adding 20 names to the existing pool of 44 just weeks before Ginsburg’s death on Friday. Her loss dramatically shifted the dynamics of an already high-stakes race, now just 43 days out from the election.
More than four prior Supreme Court justices have been nominated and confirmed in less time than that between Ginsburg’s death and the election, including Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, John Paul Stevens, Ginsburg, and Ginsburg’s predecessor.