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GOP opposition to Ketanji Brown Jackson won't tarnish her legacy

Republican attacks meant to diminish her public approval have failed, but they've exposed how racist and petulant the GOP can be.


Sensing their futility in keeping Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson off the Supreme Court, a number of GOP lawmakers have responded the only way they know how: with angry diatribes and disinformation.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri continued to push his baseless claims this week that Jackson has been inappropriately lenient toward criminals in her court rulings. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said Jackson would be the “the most extreme and the furthest-left justice ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court,” a claim rebutted by his longtime mentor. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina barked that Jackson wouldn’t have even gotten a hearing if Republicans were in charge. (Good thing they aren’t.)

Black people don’t wear the sins of our oppressors; that hate is theirs to bear.

And not to be outdone with his casual idiocy, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas attacked Jackson’s experience as a public defender by suggesting she would have defended Nazis during the Nuremberg trials.  (That’s ludicrous, but if Cotton wants to go after true Nazi defenders, he should take a trip to Mar-a-Lago.) 

To take all this GOP angst seriously requires us to believe in fiction.

First, it requires us to believe that those senators actually care about law and justice — not white supremacist rule. Unfortunately, their allegiance to a conservative movement infatuated with racist conspiracy theories about election fraud undermines any legitimacy they’re grasping for with their political theater targeting Jackson’s purported lawlessness. They sound like heretics preaching a gospel they’ve long forgotten. Obviously, a pro-insurrection party has no legitimacy in discussions about constitutionality.

On top of that, these senators also hope they can bend reality to fit their narrative that Jackson’s judicial approach is radical or dangerous. 

Yes, she has more legal experience than several of the sitting Supreme Court justices combined. Yes, many of the senators opposing her — including Graham — have voted in favor of her previous court confirmations. Yes, she’s received endorsements from organizations as varied as victims rights groups, the Fraternal Order of Police and the NAACP. 

But… but… there’s just something about her these senators don’t like now. 

As far as I’m concerned, their motives are clear. As I wrote last week, Republican have hewed closely to racist arguments officials made during the Jim Crow era, when they desperately tried to bar Black people from previously segregated spaces. 

But with Jackson on the verge of confirmation, there’s literally no reason for us to concern ourselves with this hate. It’s a common refrain in the press that Republicans are seeking to tarnish Jackson’s reputation with unfounded attacks on her character and experience, but evidence seems to show they failed. As my colleague Steve Benen wrote for the MaddowBlog  last week, their efforts haven’t dented her historically high support. 

All of us — including the GOP senators opposing Jackson — should dispense with the idea that slanderous attacks levied against her say anything about her. Black people don’t wear the sins of our oppressors; that hate is theirs to bear. 

And the senators are welcome to stew over it for the rest of their lives if they’d like.