We can always count on the audacity: Calling out the 47 senators who voted against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

OPINION: As the recent leak from the Supreme Court shows, it is imperative we pay attention to the composition of the U.S. Senate to ensure a successful nomination and confirmation process if we want to protect our basic rights.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I hope you are still basking in the glow of the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. I am slowly undoing the knots that formed in my stomach during those hearings. I don’t know if I will ever get over the PTSD of seeing this supremely qualified Black woman have to defend and justify her worth to senators who are an intellectual embarrassment to the nation, to say the least.

I must admit, as elated as I am about soon-to-be Justice Jackson, I am still salty at the way she was treated during her confirmation hearings. I am actually filled with a bell hooks level of simmering rage at the display of white supremacy, anti-Black racism, patriarchy and capitalism on display during Judge Brown Jackson’s confirmation. I know, I know, I need to Teddy Pendergrass it and let it gooooo, but I prefer to be Petty Pendergrass at this moment and call out the 47 U.S. senators who had the audacity and unmitigated gall to vote against Judge Jackson in order to try to prevent her from ascending to the highest court in our nation. 

If you decide to sit in the petty with me for just a spell, here are a few things to remember:

  • Of the 47 senators, all Republicans, who voted against KBJ, 25 voted for her less than a year ago when Biden nominated her to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. What explains the change of heart in such a short time for senators like Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Tim Scott (South Carolina), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Ted Cruz (Texas)?
  • The brother from South Carolina: I’ve already called out the lone African-American Republican senator, Tim Scott, for voting against KBJ. Although he acknowledged her qualifications, he found her “too radical” to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Scott is up for reelection this year, and his vote against Judge Jackson will likely help him cruise into a reelection victory. There have always been Black people like Tim Scott in our midst. However, one positive attribute about Scott is that he is consistent. There are no surprises with Scott, and for that, I am grateful. His senior colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham, has become a caricature of his former self, having twice voted to confirm Jackson to the federal bench. Graham’s first vote was in 2013, assisting Judge Jackson’s ascension to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He again voted for Judge Jackson less than a year ago when she was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. and although he too voted for Judge Jackson twice in the span of roughly 10 years, he could not bring himself to do so once again, citing Jackson, “will not be deterred by the plain meaning of the law when it comes to liberal causes.”
  • 15 of the 47 Republican senators are up for reelection in November. Although many of these senators represent states with significant Republican majorities, such as Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, and Kentucky, there are a few vulnerable senators who could see a bit more competition in November if folks mobilize and donate to their Democratic challengers. Democrats in Wisconsin are lining up to unseat Senator Ron Johnson, including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor. Marco Rubio of Florida is facing a stiff challenge from Rep. Val Demings. If Demings is successful, she would become only the third African-American female U.S. senator in the history of our nation.
  • Five Republican senators announced they would not seek reelection, leaving their seats open. These Republican senators represent potential Democratic possibilities in the states of North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania if the DNC decides to invest and organize in these states and support the Democratic candidates with fundraising, messaging and outreach. Paging DNC Chair Jaime Harrison! It may be time to think strategically about a message that will galvanize voters beyond, “We aren’t them!” 
  • Six of the 47 senators who voted against Judge Jackson were women, white women to be specific. White women have historically been some of the most steadfast keepers of patriarchy and white supremacy. As USC political scientist Jane Junn has succinctly written, white women voting to support the Republican agenda have been “Hiding in Plain Sight.” 
  • Support Democrats running for reelection. There are a number of vulnerable Democrats in Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. The Senate is important to the confirmation process for future justices, and the Democrat’s Senate advantage hangs in the balance, especially since Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) cannot be relied upon for consistent support. It is incredibly important that we support the Democratic senators running to keep their seats.

As the recent leak from the Supreme Court has shown us, the role of a Supreme Court justice can serve as a stop-gap between the American people and protections of our civil rights and civil liberties. President Biden may have an opportunity to nominate another justice during his tenure, and it is imperative we pay attention to the composition of the U.S. Senate to ensure a successful nomination and confirmation process. 

We are far from out of the woods in securing our democratic rights. The beauty and curse of American politics is its ability to ebb and flow, experience progress and regress (depending on which beliefs you hold), and constantly change over time, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. What we do know for certain in uncertain times is we cannot be bystanders to our democracy. We must fight for it on a daily basis, lest it erodes and disappears as though the gains were never made.

Christina Greer Headshot thegrio.com

Christina Greer is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University, a political analyst at thegrio.com, and the author of “Black Ethnics”. Her research and teaching focus on American politics, black ethnic politics, urban politics, and campaigns and elections.

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