Republican Senators Use Judge Jackson’s Confirmation Hearings to Attack Progressive Ideologies

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court is historic, but her confirmation hearings were unfortunately upstaged by Republican senators’ ridiculous attempts to attack various progressive ideologies, using their time to ask her illogical questions unrelated to her qualifications or responsibilities as a judge. 

Jackson is the first Black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court, and she would also be the first former federal public defender to serve on the Court. Additionally, Jackson would be the sixth woman to join the Court amid a legacy in which 108 of the 115 justices have been white men. In her opening remarks, she humbly positioned her career and accomplishments in relation to her parents, family and mentors who supported her along the way and taught her that “unlike the many barriers that they had had to face growing up, [her] path was clearer, so that if [she] worked hard and believed in [herself], in America [she] could do anything or be anything [she] wanted to be.” 

While the Senate Democrats posed questions about Jackson’s experiences that prepared her for this role and her impressive record of judging cases fairly and impartially, the Republicans decided to use these hearings as a platform to air their frustrations and opinions on topics ranging from critical race theory, their preferences for other nominees and recent policies about transgender athletes.

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin described the situation perfectly after the hearings when he said, “Republicans are testing their messages for the November election.” No one was fooled by the intentions behind their absurd questions, and it was truly upsetting to watch Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz try to piece together such loose connections between these topics and Jackson in order to somehow relate her work to the questions they wanted to ask.

I’m not sure how Jackson maintained her patience and composure when Cruz grabbed a stack of children’s books and started displaying photos from one titled “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi. “Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?” proceeded Cruz. He suggested that because this book was taught at a school where Jackson serves on the board of trustees, the ideas in the book — and apparently critical race theory — might be representative of her views and interfere with her ability to make fair judgements. A bizarre implication, to say the least. Ironically, to Cruz’s dismay I’m sure, sales for “Antiracist Baby” and the other children’s books Cruz mentioned skyrocketed in the following days as his questioning went viral on social media.

Other problematic lines of questioning were spearheaded by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Marsha Blackburn. First, Graham began by asking Jackson to rate her faithfulness on a scale of one to 10. He explained that this focus on Jackson’s religion was a vengeful response to the “offensive” treatment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett at her confirmation hearings. As part of this rant, he also expressed his anger about the fact that President Biden chose to nominate Jackson instead of his preferred candidate, Judge Michelle Childs, and argued that “a lot of people from the left” made an effort to “destroy” Childs. He was irritated that left-wing groups supported Jackson over Childs, and Graham apparently had to make his personal opinions about this known despite the lack of relevance at this point.

That same day, Blackburn interrogated Jackson about the definition of a woman. Jackson explained that providing such a definition would be outside of her role as a judge, but Blackburn was relentless and tried to connect this question to recent decisions about the participation of transgender women in women’s sports. “The fact that you can’t give me a straight answer about something as fundamental as what a woman is,” she exclaimed, “underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about.” Clearly an attempt at political messaging to appeal to her conservative constituents, Blackburn’s questions were not related to any particular Supreme Court case nor any aspect of Jackson’s past work or qualifications. “Saturday Night Live” had a field day with this one, understandably so. 

These are just a few examples of the ways that Republican senators tried to paint Jackson as a radical leftist and focused the hearings on their own conservative messages about hot button topics in our contentious political climate. I think Democratic Senator Cory Booker spoke for a lot of us watching the hearings when he said to Jackson, “You faced insults here that were shocking to me … well, actually not shocking.” Though it was not necessarily surprising, it was definitely disturbing that despite her long list of qualifications, Jackson had to sit through such absurd lines of questioning and respond calmly as Republicans tried to vilify her in their crusade against liberal ideas.

Nevertheless, as this process comes to an end in the coming days, it looks like Jackson is set to be confirmed, and a few Republicans, such as Senator Susan Collins of Maine, will vote in her favor. Jackson will make history as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court and serve as an important voice on the bench for many years to come.