Reviews | By trashing Ketanji Jackson, the Republicans undermine the legitimacy of the court

By offering Jackson at least a respectful audience, Republican senators could have taken a step toward easing the crisis of legitimacy facing the Supreme Court due to the relentless GOP packaging of the highest court in the world. country. Rejecting extreme partisanship could have lowered the political temperature around the court, to the benefit of its 6-3 conservative majority.

And avoiding racial tropes they trotted – denunciations of critical race theory, which Jackson never embraced, and speech by Senator Ted. Cruz (R-Tex.) On books teaching “babies are racist” — Republicans could have shown they mean what they say about judging people by “character content.” Momentarily at least, they might have steered the party away from backlash politics.

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There would have been no cost to any of this because Jackson’s confirmation, now all but assured with his Friday endorsement from Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), won’t change the balance on the field in any way. She replaces another Liberal (and one of her mentors), Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Alas, as Carl Hulse, the New York Times’ veteran Washington correspondent, dryly observed, “Republicans couldn’t help themselves.”

What happened last week wasn’t just political as usual. The relentless attack on Jackson’s conviction in the child pornography cases was despicable. By dint of repetition, amplified by the conservative media, an obviously brilliant jurist and devoted mother will forever be branded in the minds of some Americans as “soft on child pornography.”

It’s revolting because, as the Post’s Glenn Kessler showed in a meticulous fact-check, Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) claim that Jackson “has a habit of letting juvenile porn offenders get away with it” amounted to “distorting the judge’s judgment”. record.” It’s despicable because, as Linda Qiu reported in The New York Times, “every Republican ‘Jackson’ critic had already voted to uphold judges who handed down prison sentences below recommendations. of the prosecutor” for the crimes of child sexual abuse. The words “double standard” do not begin to capture what is happening here.

And it’s truly amazing (but, alas, not surprising) that Cruz insisted on the racial content of the children’s books he says were taught at Georgetown Day School, where she sits on the board. Kudos to Jackson for telling Cruz about the books: “They don’t appear in my work as a judge, which I am, respectfully, here to address.” The word “respectfully” did a lot of good work in that sentence.

Turning the nomination of the first black woman to the court into an opportunity to raise racial themes that Republicans plan to use in the 2022 and 2024 election campaigns was to kick the party’s chance to show that he meant what he said when declaring his allegiance to “color blindness.”

Of course, there were Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, including Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who approached their task thoughtfully. But even the admirable and gracious Sasse announced on Friday that if Jackson was “an extraordinary person,” he should vote against her because “we disagree on the judicial philosophy.” The clear message: The GOP wants to keep even “extraordinary” liberals off the field.

What the Conservatives do not want to acknowledge is the damage they have already done by taking control of the court through the brutal exercise of political power. Beginning with the 2016 nomination blockade of Merrick Garland and culminating in the rushed confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 election, Republicans have sent the message that it’s not law, not deliberation, but partisan manipulation is at the heart of the court. decision making.

The court’s conservative justices have reinforced that view with rulings on voting rights, gerrymanders and campaign finance that are tilted in favor of Republicans, financial interests and voter suppression. If the majority of six justices continues with its habits of overstepping, breaking precedent, and disregarding the will of Congress, it will only harden the idea that this is arbitrary authority in the name of a predetermined program.

A confrontation seems inevitable. But Senate Republicans might have bought time and lessened the antagonism had they treated Jackson’s nomination as anything other than an opportunity for mean-spirited political messaging.

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