President Biden promised on the campaign trail that if he had the opportunity to nominate a new Supreme Court justice, he would nominate a Black woman. No one seemed to care at the time. Presidents had made similar pledges in the past. Ronald Reagan in 1980 pledged to nominate a woman to “one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration.” Donald Trump in 2020 promised to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman, leading to the nomination and confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.
But now that Biden is actually in a position to nominate a new justice to the nation’s highest court, congressional Republicans, Fox News, and the greater right-wing ecosphere are having a collective meltdown that he wants to simultaneously give a louder voice to women and Black Americans, who haven’t exactly had their hands on the levers of power.
Criticism of Biden’s choice has taken many forms. It’s hard to say which take has been the dumbest, but it’s safe to say none has been more ignorant than Ted Cruz’s contention that it’s unfair to white people, who already occupy eight of the nine seats on the court and *checks notes* the upper rungs of the the federal government, corporate America, and basically any other entity that determine how people are able to live their lives in the United States.
“It’s offensive,” Cruz said earlier this week. “Black women are, what, six percent of the U.S. population? He’s saying to 94 percent of Americans: I don’t give a damn about you.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) calls Biden’s commitment to picking a Black woman for the Supreme Court “offensive” and “an insult to Black women.”
“Black women are, what, 6% of the U.S. population? He’s saying to 94% of Americans, ‘I don’t give a damn about you.’” pic.twitter.com/SbBfxcaIBN
— The Recount (@therecount) January 31, 2022
Sen. Josh Hawley, who teamed up with Cruz to fight the certification of the Electoral College last Jan. 6., seems to think Biden is going to wander out onto the street and nominate the first Black woman he finds. “I think it sends the wrong signal to say that, ‘Well if a person is of a certain ethnic background, that we don’t care what their record is, we don’t care what their substantive beliefs are,’ he told CNN. “That would be extraordinary.”
Ketanji Brown Jackson, a 51-year-old judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Leondra Kruger, a 45-year-old justice on the California Supreme Court, and J. Michelle Childs, a 55-year-old U.S. District Court judge in South Carolina, are widely seen as the leading candidates to land the nomination. It’d be hard to argue all three aren’t plenty qualified for the position.
Politico pointed out on Wednesday that politicians like Cruz and Hawley are making so much noise because they could have designs on the 2024 Republican nomination for president. “They’re going to try to put on a good show,” a Republican strategist told the outlet. This doesn’t mean the party’s lunatic fringe isn’t also having a conniption over the idea of a Black woman on the Supreme Court. “Should the Buccaneers promise to replace Tom Brady with a woman of color?” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).
This might not be a bad idea should the NFL ever be granted the power to arbitrate abortion rights or labor laws in America.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Steven Bannon’s podcast called Biden’s pledge “the most racist thing” while lamenting that she “thought we were done with racism in this country.” Greene’s argument that racism is a thing of the past in America — which she has made before — is nothing more than a way for her to rationalize her own racism. She has such a long history of it, including saying Black people are “slaves” to the Democratic Party, that she drew condemnation from Republican leaders before she was elected. They’ve largely embraced her now, of course.
The Hill reported on Tuesday that Greene received some campaign cash from Tucker Carlson, and wouldn’t you know it, Carlson also said Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman is racist. “It’s possible we have all marinated for so long in the casual racism of affirmative action that it seems normal now to reduce human beings to their race,” he said last week. His Fox News colleague Jesse Watters added that Biden’s nominee would be the result of a “back-room racial deal.” Larry Kudlow over on Fox Business said the pledge is “un-American” and even “illegal.”
just checking in on the unhinged state of Fox's commentary about Biden nominating a Black woman for SCOTUS pic.twitter.com/2hwe86ifyZ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 1, 2022
The idea that the promise is a racist nod to affirmative action that may, in fact, be illegal has echoed throughout right-wing media since Biden reiterated it after Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement last week. It’s also been a talking point in Congress. “The majority of the court may be saying writ large that it’s unconstitutional,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), according to Mississippi Free Press. “We’ll see how that irony works out.”
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded to Wicker’s comments by citing Reagan’s pledge to seat a woman. “When President Reagan honored his campaign pledge to place the first woman on the court, he said it ‘symbolized’ the unique American opportunity ‘that permits persons of any sex, age, or race, from every section and every walk of life to aspire and achieve in a manner never before even dreamed about in human history,'” Bates said, also noting that Trump’s decision to seat a woman in Ginsburg’s place as an “inspiration.”
Herein lies the smack-you-in-the-face hypocrisy of the right’s opposition to Biden promising to seat a Black woman. Reagan and Trump essentially did the same thing. The arguments Republicans are making about qualifications and discrimination and the Constitution could just as easily be applied to the party’s two messiahs.
This doesn’t mean Republicans haven’t tried to draw a distinction. Here’s Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who brands herself as a sensible moderate, saying that Reagan’s pledge was different because Reagan only promised to make one of his Supreme Court nominees a woman. It’s unclear why this makes any difference.
"President Reagan said ONE of his Supreme Court justices would be a woman …"
— Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) claims Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to SCOTUS differs from Reagan’s to nominate a woman. pic.twitter.com/3nyD0t76Mb
— The Recount (@therecount) February 1, 2022
Collins fled through a door before she was asked to explain.