Op - Ed, Opinion

Jackson hearings show GOP wants to turn back the clock 

By Kevin Ellis

It is so very difficult to celebrate the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the next Supreme Court justice.

Nominated by President Biden, and confirmed by the Senate, Judge Jackson has a deep resume. She will be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. She will be the first justice who has worked as a public defender. She is a woman of deep religious faith and conviction who has served as a Supreme Court clerk, a federal judge and a judge on the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

She is a working mother who barged her way into Harvard Law. She has publicly apologized to her daughters on TV for sometimes getting things wrong as a parent. And she has more experience as a judge than the last three Supreme Court justices combined. 

It is yet another reflection of our dysfunctional political system that the Senate Judiciary Committee had deadlocked on her nomination on Monday, April 4. The vote was 11-11. Democrats used a procedural maneuver to move the nomination to the full Senate for a final vote. 

Republicans sank to a new low in trying to defeat Jackson’s nomination by smearing her record and tarnishing the Senate beyond its already tawdry reputation. 

Despite their best efforts, Judge Jackson was confirmed because three Republicans, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, announced their support. The other 47 Republicans in the Senate did not. 

The saddest part is this is all about performance and payback. Republicans want to insure Judge Jackson does not receive more votes than Brett Kavanaugh, the Trump nominee who barely won confirmation after allegations of sexual assault. Things are that bad. 

Years ago, in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed as the first female justice on the Supreme Court after nomination by Republican President Ronald Reagan. The vote? 99-0. 

This year, Judge Jackson was confirmed by a whisker, 53-47, while Republicans portray her as indulgent on child pornography, a friend to terrorists and a “judicial activist.’’ 

The questions Jackson has endured are embarrassing. 

Take this one from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who just this week asserted that, if the Republicans had control of the Senate, a nominee like Jackson would never even get a hearing. “On a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?” 

Or take how the resident thug of the Senate, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, opposed Jackson because she didn’t give a proper answer to the question of what defines the word “woman.’’

Finally we turn to Ted Cruz of Texas, the most disliked member of the Senate, who called Judge Jackson a friend of pedophiles and rapists. 

“If Judge Jackson is confirmed … it is 100 percent certain she will vote to overturn the death penalty and release violent criminals from jail, and overturn punishments of sex offenders,’’ Cruz said. This is the same senator who swore allegiance to Trump after Trump attacked his wife. 

Cruz then continued, claiming Jackson was “wildly out of the mainstream.’’

Republicans appear very concerned that Jackson is out of what they call the “mainstream’’ of America. But that’s nothing more than a thinly veiled swipe at a Black woman for being a radical, a socialist, soft on crime and friend to lawbreakers. You know, like all Black people. 

I’ll tell you what’s mainstream. A Black mother of two, raised by parents who worked in law, education and the military and who respect the Constitution and the country. 

These questions have sent us back in time, way back. Back to the 1920s, when states passed laws requiring schools to teach Genesis and not evolution. These laws resulted in the famous Scopes trial where a schoolteacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was arrested for teaching basic history and evolution. 

We are in the Looking Glass and down the Rabbit Hole. Merit no longer matters. Facts no longer matter. And we’ve been here for a long time. 

These Republicans are old. They are white. They are hateful. And they are bitter. They are bitter about what is left of this liberal society the FDR New Deal created after World War II.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start, they despise the existence of these programs that help people and they will stop at nothing to destroy them. They cling to a country that doesn’t exist — that never existed. 

They want a country of incarceration and punishment instead of education and rehabilitation. Several of them will be running for president next year, including Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas, who called Jackson a friend of terrorists for representing clients at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

We can only hope that these old white people die off and are replaced by a next generation.

My only solace came when two of our children visited for my wife’s birthday last weekend. The conversations were deep and broad, varied, funny and happy. They reflected none of the sludge and hypocrisy that is now the U.S. Senate, a body that is so out of touch and dysfunctional that it stands in the way of progress.

Kevin Ellis is a communications consultant based in Montpelier. 

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