During opening statements of the Senate confirmation hearings for Biden Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, which began on Monday, Democrats (one in particular) went into spin mode by testing out a talking point that went a little something like this: Republicans are saying you were nominated because of your race.
It was Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who said it most plainly:
“My Republican colleagues and public figures have attempted to undermine your qualifications through their pejorative use of the term ‘affirmative action,’ and they have implied you were solely nominated due to your race. … Let me be clear: Your nomination is not about filling a quota.”
Al Sharpton employed a similar deflection on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I salute President Biden in this case. He made a commitment, and I don’t think it was based on some tokenism. I think it was based on him saying that the court ought to reflect the country, and a black woman has never been on the court, and you couldn’t get one more qualified,” Sharpton said, before implying that it was racist for GOP lawmakers to inquire about the nominee’s law school admission test score.
It’s an odd basket of claims: that it’s Republicans who made Jackson’s nomination all about race, that anything was “implied,” that describing the race-based selection as “affirmative action” is out of bounds, and that this has nothing to do with tokenism.
They’re strange claims because most Americans are old enough to remember just two months ago when President Joe Biden himself stated clearly and plainly that his pick would be “the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court,” after making a similar promise on the campaign trail. It was the Democrat president, not Republican cynics, who announced that race and sex were deciding factors in the selection. “Y” chromosomes and fair skin were disqualifying attributes before any merits could be considered.
Other Democrats couldn’t help themselves, playing into the identity politics game and marveling at the “historic” nature of nominating a black woman to the high court — and all the while undermining Hirono’s claim that it’s Republicans who have centralized race in Jackson’s nomination.
“The appointment of a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court — let’s be very blunt — should have happened years ago. This day is a giant leap into the present for our country and for the court,” gushed Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
“The Senate is poised right now to break another barrier. We are on the precipice of shattering another ceiling,” said New Jersey Democrat Sen. Cory Booker, who is known for breaking Senate rules during the confirmation hearings for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh with his cringe “Spartacus” moment. “I just feel this sense of overwhelming joy as I see you sitting there.”
Despite Hirono’s attempted deflection to her GOP colleagues and empty media assurances that tokenism is nonexistent here, it was Democrats who fixated on Jackson’s race and sex.
Now when Republicans inquire about her academic achievements and judicial record, it’s branded as veiled racism and sexism. Jackson proponents treat it like unjust scrutiny, as if a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is supposed to be for grandstanding about “historic” moments and not for judicial vetting.
Try as they might to turn Jackson criticism on Republicans, this one is on Biden. He’s the one who announced in other terms that Jackson is an affirmative action pick, just as he did with his vice president (and we’ve seen how that’s turned out). He’s the one who invited intensified scrutiny of Jackson’s merits and ideology. He reduced Jackson’s qualifications to the color of her skin and the pairing of her chromosomes.
Nobody “implied” that Jackson was nominated because of her race. The president announced it proudly.