Republicans are absolutely flailing in Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearing

The Supreme Court nominee is so qualified and popular, that the Senate GOP has resorted to maniacally grasping at straws.

Getty Images/Kent Nishimura, Anna Moneymaker

To be a Republican senator in the year 2022 is to exist as a walking, talking exercise in performative outrage. There is nothing on Earth that is undeserving of a GOP lawmaker’s bloviating and wholly manufactured scorn — and there is no venue where that propensity for self-righteous and self-promoting indignation is more on display than in a Senate Judiciary hearing for a United States Supreme Court nominee like, say, Ketanji Brown Jackson. If there’s an incandescently hot core of conservative whining, surely it resides in a judiciary hearing chamber. There, Republicans have mastered the art of being absolute, diaper-filling babies about anything they think might make even the slightest dent in their current stranglehold on the American legal system.

With that in mind, it’s been fascinating — if deeply unpleasant — to watch the nomination hearing for Jackson, President Biden’s pick to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Because even by the existing standards of ridiculous GOP pearl-clutching, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican members have seemingly gone into overdrive to paint Jackson as a child-porn loving, terrorist-abetting misogynist. And, even more fascinatingly, those increasingly hyperbolic, not-so-subtly racist lines of attacks have landed glancing blows at best — in inverse proportion to the intensity with which they have been delivered.

That Jackson, an astonishingly accomplished, well-credentialed jurist, has managed to sit through questions like “are babies racist?” and “what is a woman?” and “can I be Asian?” without laughing (or crying) is as much a testament to her sense of restraint as it is an indictment of just how absurd the GOP’s attempts to discredit her are. It’s as if her mere presence as a judicial nominee has driven Republicans into a mindless frenzy of criticisms so outlandish and caricatured that they’ve forgotten to even pay lip service to the facade of respectability and objective civility.

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If you want a metaphor for how hysterical and overwrought conservatives have become over Jackson, look no further than the fact that they’ve literally erased her identity, replacing it instead with the their latest inane bugbear shibboleth for “person who thinks racism is a problem.”

In no small part, the GOP’s flagging lines of attack are a problem of their own making: After years nominating objectively less qualified conservative judges to the court, Republican senators are now stuck trying to make mountains out of judicial molehills to cover for the fact that Jackson makes their picks look like dirt in comparison. So they whine about “process” and “fairness” and test Jackson’s personal religious commitment in lieu of raising anything of actual substance.

Under other circumstances, with another nominee, this sort of blitzkrieg assault very well might have landed something — anything — by now. But not only is Jackson unimpeachably qualified to sit on the bench, she’s also incredibly popular; according to Gallup polling, she’s the most well regarded judicial nominee in nearly two decades, all the way back to now-Chief Justice John Roberts’ nomination under George W. Bush. However hyperbolic and unhinged the GOP’s ongoing attempt to corner Jackson would have seemed with anyone else, the fact that they’re swinging — and missing — so wildly against someone this well-regarded only exacerbates the sense that Senate Republicans are truly flailing.

For now, it seems likely, albeit not inevitable, that Ketanji Brown Jackson will become the next Supreme Court associate justice — not because of the obvious Republican flopping, but for the simple fact that she’ll have demonstrated she’s the best person for the job. And if that’s the case, the country will be better off because of it.