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On racial politics, Ted Cruz didn’t do his party any favors

The Republican Party's outreach to Black voters took another big step backwards with the party's offensive against Ketanji Brown Jackson.


It was just a few days ago when The Hill reported that Republicans are trying to “make inroads with Black voters ahead of November’s midterm elections.” GOP officials, the article added, believe the party’s “recruitment and messaging strategies stand to resonate with the crucial voting bloc.”

It’s probably fair to say that if this is a sincere Republican goal, it will be an uphill climb. The GOP is, after all, the party of Donald Trump and birthers. It’s the party of voter-suppression measures that specifically target minority communities. It’s even the party that doesn’t do anything when two of its congressional lawmakers appear at a white nationalist event.

Yesterday’s developments made matters quite a bit worse. The New York Times summarized matters very well:

After all of the entreaties from top Republicans to show respect at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, Senator Ted Cruz on Tuesday afternoon chose to grill the first Black woman nominated for the Supreme Court on her views on critical race theory and insinuate that she was soft on child sexual abuse. The message from the Texas Republican seemed clear: A Black woman vying for a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land would, Mr. Cruz suggested, coddle criminals, go easy on pedophiles and subject white people to the view that they were, by nature, oppressors.

The article added that the Supreme Court nominee faced Republican questions containing “barely coded appeals to racism.”

Indeed, it was unsubtle when the Republican National Committee pushed an image on Twitter showing Jackson’s picture alongside her initials, “KBJ,” crossed out and replaced by “CRT.”

A Washington Post analysis added, “‘Critical race theory’ (CRT) was elevated — and expanded — as a way of talking about conservative concerns about the perception that Whites held a diminished position in American society without being explicit about that perception. Here, the subterfuge is stripped away: Republicans are being warned that a Black nominee for the Supreme Court is hoping to inculcate this anti-White agenda. It’s not subtle.”

Noting the disconnect between critical race theory and Jackson's actual jurisprudence, my MSNBC colleague Zeeshan Aleem also noted:

It’s clear that Republicans aren’t engaged in a serious dialogue with Jackson about the field of critical race theory. Instead they view the issue as an opportunity to generate controversy and whip up opposition to her nomination among the Republican base. The GOP is fixating on this one issue when there are so many other legal issues that Jackson has discernible opinions about and could be pressed on. It all seems to suggest that some of the basis for the focus on the issue is her race.

I’m mindful, of course, of larger circumstances. Jackson is obviously highly qualified for the high court and none of the other lines of attack from GOP senators have withstood scrutiny.

And so, Republicans are left with ... this.

As a matter of basic human decency, such tactics are indefensible. But even as a political matter, there’s little to be gained from such an offensive.

It seemed at least possible that Republicans would recognize the fact that the right already has a dominant, 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, and with a Democratic majority in the Senate, Jackson’s confirmation was extremely likely. GOP senators and their partisan allies could’ve recognized these circumstances and stuck to the high ground, if for no other reason than to advance their own partisan interests.

But as yesterday helped prove, the party just can’t help itself.