Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in at her confirmation hearing
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in at her confirmation hearing

As Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son was intro­duced to Amer­i­ca at her Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, as a per­son of qual­i­fi­ca­tion and intel­lect, the nation received a quite dif­fer­ent first dose of Sen­a­tor Mar­sha Black­burn, R‑Tennessee.

It was Black­burn who went on and on about “cul­ture wars” and want­ed Judge Jack­son to define a woman. Black­burn is a per­son who judges with­out evi­dence. Wit­ness this tweet: “The rad­i­cal left is teach­ing five-year-olds that they can choose their own sex. Mean­while, they’ve put for­ward a nom­i­nee to the Supreme Court who can­not define the word ‘woman’.”

How did Ten­nessee, home to past Sen­ate Major­i­ty Lead­ers, come to elect a Tea Par­ty sup­port­er to the World’s Great­est Delib­er­a­tive Body?

A Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing played a role.

In 2018, Repub­li­cans deployed the “smear­ing” of nom­i­nee Brett Kavanaugh to their advan­tage in con­ser­v­a­tive states. It worked in Ten­nessee as Black­burn beat a blue-chip Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee, ex-Gov­er­nor Phil Bredensen.

The polit­i­cal right dis­plays a cyn­i­cal mas­tery when it comes to cre­at­ing issues. Its nation­wide pro­pa­gan­da net­work ranges from rhi­nos (Sean Han­ni­ty) to tick birds (Dori Mon­son). It gen­er­ates issues from whole cloth, wit­ness Black­burn talk­ing about “woke” cul­ture, sex change, and man­u­fac­tured evils of crit­i­cal race theory.

Judge Kavanaugh was worked over the coals, legit­i­mate­ly because of a spe­cif­ic alle­ga­tion of attempt­ed rape ren­dered – hes­i­tant­ly and reluc­tant­ly – by a cred­i­ble per­son. The Jack­son hear­ings before Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee have shown what a real-life smear looks lie.

On the Sen­ate floor, in Tuesday’s debate, extrem­ist Sen­a­tor Tom Cot­ton, R‑Arkansas, hit a new low as he stat­ed: “The last Judge (Robert) Jack­son left the Supreme Court to go to Nurem­burg and pros­e­cute the chase against the Nazis. This Judge Jack­son might have gone there to defend them.”

The Repub­li­cans are at it again, gin­ning up issues and tar­get­ing folk rang­ing from legal ser­vices lawyers to trans­gen­der teens. It is to three ends.

The Repub­li­can “base” is a minor­i­ty of vot­ers. The fol­low­ing must be mobi­lized, par­tic­u­lar­ly in low­er turnout midterm elections.

Con­verse­ly, make it dif­fi­cult for such non-Repub­li­can con­stituen­cies as work­ing women, peo­ple of col­or and young folks to vote.

Final­ly, office­hold­ers who stray from the par­ty and Trump line must be terrorized.

Of the three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors who are vot­ing for Judge Jackson’s con­fir­ma­tion, Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene, R‑Georgia, tweet­ed on Tues­day: “Collins, Murkows­ki and Rom­ney are pro-pedophile.” (Greene appears at ral­lies with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Matt Gaetz, R‑Florida, object of a fed­er­al sex traf­fick­ing investigation.)

I watched the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee hear­ing with a neigh­bor who is African Amer­i­can. She was upset at this lat­est boor­ish treat­ment of a Black woman.

So were many African Amer­i­can women across the Unit­ed States, a mass out­rage giv­en elo­quent voice by Joy Reid and guests on MSNBC.

But not enough. Polit­i­cal pro­gres­sives are roused less often, which is not good for the nation. When it does hap­pen – e.g. the Judi­cia­ry Committee’s treat­ment of Ani­ta Hill, the growth of the #MeToo move­ment – pos­i­tive social change results.

Our pro­gres­sives don’t deploy a griev­ance machine that nur­tures past upsets. Quite the con­trary, the urge is to move on and move ahead. New mat­ters com­mand atten­tion. A vast cit­i­zen move­ment fueled Barack Obama’s cam­paign for the pres­i­den­cy. He seemed to say, “I’ll take it from here.”

The activism wasn’t there to advo­cate for the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act. The troops were not turned out to defend it in the 2010 elec­tion campaign.

Recall­ing 1994 and 2010, there is in 2020 the per­il of a “three-peat.” The stakes are too high to sit this one out. Trump is far from gone. Not only is the Trump move­ment very much alive, but the Repub­li­can Par­ty is sub­servient to it.

We are faced, with cas­es con­cern­ing abor­tion before the Supreme Court, the prospect that Amer­i­cans will see a right tak­en away.

The Court has made atro­cious deci­sions in the past, such as eighty years ago when it upheld the intern­ment of Japan­ese Amer­i­cans, but most of those deci­sions have been in long-ago eras. And nev­er with a right, the right to repro­duc­tive free­dom, con­sis­tent­ly sup­port­ed in polls by a major­i­ty of Americans.

Judge Jack­son will be con­firmed by the Sen­ate, not with the eighty-plus votes earned by Ruth Bad­er Gins­berg, but with 53 or 54 votes.

She has the can­dle pow­er to excel on the Supreme Court, but like­ly nev­er will for­get her treat­ment before the Judi­cia­ry Committee.

Nor should we. Nor has one Repub­li­can, Sen­a­tor Lisa Murkows­ki, R‑Alaska, who is vot­ing to con­firm based on Judge Jackson’s “range of expe­ri­ence from the court­room that few can match giv­en her back­ground in litigation.”

But, of her deci­sion, Murkows­ki said Friday:

It also rests on my rejec­tion of the cor­ro­sive politi­ciza­tion of the review process for Supreme Court nom­i­nees, which, on both sides of the aisle, is grow­ing worse and more detached from real­i­ty by the year.

The evo­lu­tion – and pro­posed revo­ca­tion – of rights is a must-fol­low, must-act mat­ter for pro­gres­sives. The selec­tion, nom­i­na­tion and con­fir­ma­tion of fed­er­al judges is so vital to that progress. For instance, judi­cial nom­i­na­tions put for­ward by Sen­a­tors Mur­ray and Cantwell have already made the fed­er­al bench in Wash­ing­ton look a lot more like the state’s population.

I’m re-upping my mem­ber­ship in the Amer­i­can Con­sti­tu­tion Soci­ety to keep track of the process. It didn’t cease to be inter­est­ing with a Demo­c­rat back in the White House. When encoun­ter­ing a law­mak­er who wants my cam­paign dol­lars, ‘will ask whether Con­gress will take up the egre­gious eth­i­cal con­flicts embod­ies by right wing pow­er cou­ple Clarence and Gin­ni Thomas.

Just one ques­tion that Judge Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son is barred by dis­cre­tion from answer­ing: Hav­ing known the “Gen­tle­man from Texas” since both were stu­dents at Har­vard Law School, when did she first take an active dis­like to Ted Cruz?

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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