The SCOTUS confirmation hearings are showing us exactly who Republicans are
They'd love to turn back the clock... and the press wants to help them.
Against my better judgment, I decided to tune into the Senate confirmation hearings on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was… well… exactly what I thought it’d be.
Was there racism? Oh yes, there was. Were there “questions” (questions during these hearings tend to be a bit more in the “actually, I have more of a comment than a question…” variety) that signaled Republican plans for not only abortion but also LGBTQ rights. So that’s… fun,1 I guess?
Right off the bat, you had the official Twitter account of the GOP tweeting a GIF of Jackson. In it, her initials, “KBJ,” were crossed off and replaced with the letters “CRT.” This was meant to signify that Jackson was the embodiment of the boogeyman Republicans have been calling “critical race theory.” I’m sure that didn’t have anything to do with the fact that she’s Black. Sure, sure, sure. Right, right, okay.
During day two of the hearings, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) made abundantly clear what Republicans are going to target after they finish dismantling the right to abortion: marriage equality.
Cornyn repeatedly compared the court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the country, to Dred Scott v. Sandford, an 1857 Supreme Court ruling that stated that enslaved people were not citizens of the United States and should therefore not be provided with the rights and protections of citizens. By making this comparison, Cornyn was very clearly trying to argue that Obergefell was wrongly decided, as Dred Scott was, and should be overturned.
The Present Age is a reader-supported project. From now until the end of the month, I’m offering free 90 day trials to the premium-tier newsletter content. If you like it and think it’s worth paying for, that’s great. If you don’t think it’s worth paying for, just cancel the trial before the 90 days is up. Sound good? Click this link to get it:
And then you had Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) arguing against Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 ruling that overturned a state law criminalizing birth control.
As Dean Obeidallah notes in a piece he wrote for MSNBC, Griswold is the basis of the idea that we have a “right to privacy” in the U.S. Griswold is the foundation for SCOTUS rulings on marriage equality (Obergefell), abortion (Roe), and anti-sodomy laws (Lawrence v. Texas).
Blackburn also tried to catch Jackson in a “gotcha” about trans people, asking Jackson to define the word “woman.” Blackburn asked this because the GOP goal is to create legal definitions of “man” and “woman” that exclude trans women in the definition of “woman” and trans men in the definition of “man.” Why? To create specific anti-trans carve-outs in nondiscrimination laws.
Define woman? One thing anti-trans people like to do to argue that trans women don’t actually belong to the category “women” is to point to the dictionary definition. “Ah ha! Adult female person!” they’ll say as they point to Merriam-Webster.
Okay, but then if you follow along to the definition of “female,” used here as an adjective as it was in the definition above, you get this.
Definition 1a includes the word “typically,” which makes clear that there are exceptions to that definition. Definition 1b lists one of those exceptions, which includes trans women. Here’s where the same people who point to the dictionary as the end-all, be-all of definitions will stomp around arguing that the definition isn’t right, isn’t complete, or is “woke” (another word that gets tossed around quite a bit without actually being defined).
My point in all this is that it’s a silly question to ask during a Supreme Court nominee’s hearing because language and definitions are socially constructed. Nobody is arguing that trans women are the exact same as cisgender (non-trans) women. There are quite obviously some major differences! It’s okay to acknowledge that. But I digress… The more important takeaway here is that this attempt to attack trans people is about a much larger Republican effort to take away rights and legal protections from trans people, gay people, bi people, lesbians, women, people of color, and non-Christians. So even if you’re one of those people who think trans people are icky and you find yourself siding with Tucker Carlson on this topic, I hope you’ll consider that you’re helping him (and others on the right) set the stage for an attack on your rights, as well.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) called for allowing states to criminalize interracial marriage.
Not part of the hearing, but related. Braun was being interviewed by a local reporter when he was asked about his opposition to court rulings that Republicans believe “invented” rights. Griswold is one of them. Roe is another. Lawrence is yet another. Obergefell, etc.
And then he was specifically asked about Loving v. Virginia, a case that found that a state’s decision to outlaw interracial marriage violated the 14th amendment. His response was to agree with the premise that “the issue of interracial marriage” should be left “to the states.”
Braun tried to walk it back after realizing exactly what he said, lying about not understanding the question, which specified that this was about the issue of interracial marriage.
Oh, and then there was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’s obsession with books about racist babies and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)’s repeated and baseless insinuations that Jackson was somehow pro-pedophile.
Just as Republicans decided to call anyone opposed to the Florida bill outlawing discussion of LGBTQ families “groomers” and have spent years insinuating that trans people are “bathroom predators,” this is the latest baseless attack. There’s nothing to suggest that Jackson is somehow “pro-pedophile” or “soft on pedophiles” or anything of the sort. But maybe the call is coming from inside the house.
The hearings have been a total and utter shitshow. Anyone who thinks that Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) represent the “fringe” of the Republican Party are deluding themselves.
This is just who they are. All of them. There’s a reason Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been trying to get his GOP colleagues to stay quiet about what they actually believe in agenda-wise. It’s because this is it: absolutely off-the-wall bonkers nonsense that will gut the legal protections of millions of Americans while shouting conspiracy theories.
My former Media Matters colleague Andrew Lawrence posted this joke that is… sadly a pretty accurate reflection of what actually happened:
Our only real hope is for the press to cover these right-wingers as the extremists they are… In that case, we’re screwed.
If you haven’t been watching the hearings, you might be under the impression that things were merely “heated” or that Jackson “sparred” with Republicans. The overwhelming majority of Americans will never know just how extreme this party is because mainstream news outlets will continue to soften their images in print.
Here are some examples of people calling out some of the bad coverage:
Jennifer 'I stand with Ukraine' Rubin 🇺🇦🇺🇦 @JRubinBloggerhere is where the MSM totally fails. "tense" questioning? no, bullying, interrupting, rude, overbearing. Describe what you SEE not what sounds neutral.
APStylebook @APStylebookAvoid using the vague phrases racially charged, racially motivated or racially tinged to describe situations in which race is or is alleged or perceived to be a central issue, but that do not meet the definition of racist or racism.
“Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (to Love and to Be Loved)” by Bright Eyes
Very much not fun.