Justice Jackson’s Ascension To SCOTUS Highlights GOP Attacks On Women Of Color, Among Other Awful Wrongdoings
The GOP was quick to discredit the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee, but was eager to accept three new judges who were destined to roll back the basic freedoms of women of color.
American voters will not forget the history made at the Supreme Court during one week in June 2022. On Friday, June 24, the Court overturned nearly 50 years of precedent in Roe v. Wade, taking away access to abortion care for millions of Americans. And the following Thursday, the Court swore in Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman Supreme Court justice in our nation’s history.
The court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Mississippi will disproportionately impact access to abortion for women of color. Meanwhile, the first woman of color on the court faced a gauntlet of a confirmation process filled with racist attacks and right-wing smears.
As they gear up for a midterm that will rely on the votes of women of color, Democrats should not let voters forget the impact of the abortion ruling or Jackson’s unjust confirmation process. The party can’t afford to turn the other cheek; Democrats must go on offense and specifically call out right-wing attacks and how they impact women of color.
Our polling and focus groups show that Democratic base voters — particularly Black voters and women — were watching Jackson’s confirmation hearings closely. They watched Senate Republicans unfairly and inappropriately go after Judge Jackson with racist attacks.
Across two HIT Strategies focus group sessions conducted in February, older Black voters and younger Democratic voters feared that Senate Republicans would treat a Black female nominee unfairly and wanted Democrats to fight back. One younger Black woman said, “I just want them to actually try to do something about it, whatever that means.”
Similarly, Black women also feel that no one is looking out for them aside from themselves. In a June focus group with Black base voters on the impact that a Roe reversal would have on Black women, one woman said, “I think as a community Black women stand together for the most part. But when I look at our national system as a whole I don’t see much respect for Black women.”
Such beliefs are validated by Jackson’s experience during her confirmation hearings. Sen. Ted Cruz (R- Texas) asked her at the start of his remarks whether she believed if babies are racist or not, as he referenced the children’s book “Antiracist Baby” and questioned her belief in Critical Race Theory. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted that she had a history of letting child pornography offenders “off the hook for their appalling crimes,” which offers racially coded language that falsely implied she has been “soft on crime” — an oft-used attack on Black leaders.
Jackson’s hearings sharply contrasted with the recent confirmation hearings of Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett, all of whom felt comfortable enough to repeatedly lie under oath about their intentions to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The GOP was quick to discredit the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee, but was eager to accept three new judges who were destined to roll back the basic freedoms of women of color. This decision will directly lead to physical and economic harm for women who look like Justice Jackson.
Some Democrats did forcefully defend Jackson, such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who made an emotional speech praising Judge Jackson and highlighting mistreatment against her. Similarly, Democrats must defend women of color from the fallout of the Dobbs decision. Positive examples include California state lawmakers’ move to put a ballot initiative to voters that would enshrine reproductive rights into the state’s constitution.
Fighting back could also have electoral benefits for Democrats. Case-in-point, a recent BlackTrack poll shows 54% of Black voters said that an unfair confirmation process would make them more motivated to vote in the midterms; 72% would be more motivated by abortion restrictions.
In all, Democrats must ensure Jackson’s mistreatment and the GOP’s theft of abortion rights do not go unpunished. Their most loyal voters demand it.
Roshni Nedungadi is a founding partner at HIT Strategies.
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