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If Republicans dislike affirmative action so much, explain Amy Coney Barrett

Conservatives say President Biden nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court is an undeserved affirmative action hire. But Justice Amy Coney Barrett owns that label.


News broke Wednesday of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement and conservatives wasted no time in decrying President Joe Biden's pledge to nominate a Black woman to the court.

If you let them tell it, these conservatives are outraged that Biden made such a promise. Several of them — online and over the airwaves —  framed it as an unearned commitment that prioritizes race and gender over nominees’ qualifications. 

For example, conservative lawyer Jonathan Turley wrote that Biden’s promise amounted to “discrimination,” and said it would suggest his picks “were qualified by virtue of filling a quota — an unfortunate implication for the ultimate nominee.” 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., claimed the Biden administration is “race obsessed" and "gender obsessed." He called for Biden to nominate a “pro-America, pro-Constitution justice” — not a “hard, woke, left activist.” (White people still won’t let “woke” go, I see). 

Conservative attempts to frame Biden’s upcoming nomination as an affirmative action hire, and to suggest they dislike affirmative action hires, are laughably insincere. If they were serious, they wouldn’t be focused on Biden’s qualified, Black female nominees — they’d be focused on conservative Amy Coney Barrett, the most recent justice to be confirmed to the court. She's the perfect embodiment of affirmative action’s prime beneficiaries: white women

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death opened up a seat on the court in 2020, then-President Donald Trump vowed to replace her with a woman

As Mother Jones noted at the time, Barrett was the “least experienced Supreme Court nominee in 30 years”: 

Until President Trump nominated her to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, she had never been a judge, never worked in the government as a prosecutor, defense lawyer, solicitor general, or attorney general, or served as counsel to any legislative body—the usual professional channels that Supreme Court nominees tend to hail from.

According to The Washington Post, Barrett’s nomination was largely due to a recommendation from then-White House counsel Don McGahn. Maybe that’s the stellar qualification conservatives want Biden’s Black nominees to get?

Nonetheless, Barrett served as a federal appeals judge for a mere three years before Trump nominated her to the Supreme Court. Even before then, there were calls from the conservative movement to nominate Barrett specifically because she’s a woman. 

Ramesh Ponnuru, editor of the conservative National Review, wrote in 2018, “The main reason I favor Barrett, though, is the obvious one: She’s a woman.”

After Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation, conservative praise for her womanhood continued. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, praised Barrett as “the perfect combination of brilliant jurist and a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices.” 

Conservatives don’t mind affirmative action hires so long as the people hired fit their preferred demographic. In that regard only, Biden’s Black women nominees just don’t make the cut.

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