Protect OUR Supreme Court nominee at all costs

OPINION: Now that we have our nominee, Democrats will need to fight tooth and nail to protect her from everything—including racial and misogynistic attacks from Republicans.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/POOL)

In Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, we have OUR Supreme Court nominee, and she must be protected at all costs. Yes, I wrote “our” intentionally because we, along with our ancestors, have waited 233 years for a Black woman to ascend to the Supreme Court, especially when, to date, 94 percent of the justices have been white men.

As you get introduced to Judge Brown Jackson, just know that she is an impeccable nominee, as were all of the Black women under consideration. Because let’s be real; as Black women in this country and Black women in the running for this lifetime appointment, they have to be, of course. 

Judge Brown Jackson’s work as a federal public defender would make her the first-ever former public defender to serve on the highest court in the land, and it demonstrates her commitment to public service and supporting people in need. She also doesn’t mince words in her decisions, including a decision where she wrote “presidents aren’t kings” during Donald Trump’s first impeachment, and she reiterated the point this year as part of the appeals panel that ruled that Trump’s White House archival records should be released to the January 6 select committee. 

Judge Brown Jackson’s proximity to retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, as one of his former clerks, can’t go unnoticed as she will be expected to advance the same principles and ideals he espoused on the bench, particularly related to civil rights—a theme that the 14 Black women in the House of Representatives asked President Biden to consider as he made his historic selection. Specifically, they’ve asked President Biden to select a nominee who has a track record of advancing civil rights, especially for marginalized communities, and a lot of their requests are fulfilled in Judge Brown Jackson. 

Some folks may be wondering why members of the House of Representatives are weighing in on a Supreme Court nominee when the confirmation process occurs in the Senate. Sadly, these 14 Black congresswomen are stepping in to fill a void as there is not a single Black woman in the Senate who will engage in the confirmation process and vote on this historic nomination. They are making every effort to represent us.

Now that we have our nominee, Democrats will need to fight tooth and nail to protect her with everything they have—at least that’s what Black and young voters want to see, according to focus groups conducted by HIT Strategies earlier this month. As one young Black woman put it, “…I want them to do more than send us some tweets about it because I mean, I can tweet about it at home, too. You actually are there. So I’d want [Democrats to] take some measures….” And considering the racist and misogynistic attacks from Republicans before a nominee was even named, many expect them to ramp up their attacks during the confirmation process and “try to drag her through the mud.” When that happens, voters want Democrats to “go to bat” for Judge Brown Jackson. 

Thankfully, Democrats can set themselves up to do just that by listening to and amplifying the Black women-led organizations and advocates that have been pushing for a Black woman to be named to the Supreme Court for years. I’m talking about initiatives and organizations like Black Women’s Roundtable, She Will Rise, Win With Black Women, and more. These organizations have been demonstrating how we show up for each other, and through weekly organizing calls, these proactive Black women have already mapped out a strategic playbook for how to respond to the racist, sexist attacks that will continue to come from all angles, as well as how to create a protective buffer around Judge Brown Jackson that honors her as she advances through the confirmation process. And President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the White House should be front and center and vocal in each of these instances. 

It’s critical that President Biden doesn’t shrink even the tiniest bit throughout this confirmation process because as historic as this nomination is, it is also a major political moment for Biden. Remember, Biden made his promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court in February 2020, just before the South Carolina primary, at a moment when he knew that Rep. Jim Clyburn, Black women, and Black voters could revive his presidential campaign. Now that he’s delivering on that promise, he needs to stand beside Judge Brown Jackson every step of the way, and you better believe he will be touting her nomination as a massive win during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Honestly, if Biden and Democrats see Judge Brown Jackson’s confirmation through with the protection and celebration that she deserves, you better believe it will boost Black and brown voters’ excitement going into November’s midterm elections, at a moment when so many crises are simultaneously reaching a crescendo. 

Let’s savor this moment and appreciate it for what it is—our history. And let’s protect Judge Brown Jackson as she makes history. Because as Rep. Cori Bush said, “It’s past time for a Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Juanita Tolliver is a veteran political strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst who previously served as National Political Director at Supermajority and Director of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter: @juanitatolliver.

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