Conservatives' Opposition to Yet-Unnamed SCOTUS Nominee Shows the Right's Siege Mentality

tags: racism, Supreme Court, Joe Biden

Thomas Zimmer is a visiting professor at Georgetown University, focused on the history of democracy and its discontents in the United States, and a Guardian US contributing opinion writer

When Joe Biden publicly pledged to nominate a Black woman to the US supreme court, conservative politicians, activists, and intellectuals certainly didn’t try to hide their disdain. The announcement was “offensive,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz argued, proof that the President didn’t care about 94% of Americans (everyone who is not a Black woman); and even though it’s unclear who the candidate will be, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker already knows he won’t support this affirmative action “beneficiary.” Tucker Carlson railed against Biden’s “casual racism,” and the conservative legal establishment also vowed to fight against this “lesser Black woman,” as Ilya Shapiro, the vice president of the Cato Institute, put it. Legal scholar Jonathan Turley, finally, bemoaned “exclusionary criteria of race and sex” – which apparently is a problem only if and when they result in the selection of someone who is *not* a white man. Let’s remember: 115 people have been appointed to the court in its 232-year existence – seven have not been white men. Seven.

This rather alarmed response tells us a lot about how the right views the political conflict, precisely because it is seemingly at odds with the fact that the conservative majority on the court is not in jeopardy. Any assessment of these reactions must start by recognizing their racist and sexist nature. They are revealing precisely because they were so reflexive, so visceral. Misogynoir – anti-Black misogyny - forms the basis of this conservative scorn.

But there is something else on display here too. A Black woman replacing Justice Breyer won’t change the court’s arithmetic. And yet, conservatives still feel threatened by Biden’s announcement because they understand it symbolizes the recognition that having white men dominate the powerful institutions of American life is a problem – and that rectifying this imbalance is an urgent task. They reject the notion that the country’s institutions should reflect the composition of the people; they know representation matters, and that a Black woman ascending to a position like this is also an acknowledgment of past injustice.

Conservatives see Biden’s announcement as an indication of how powerful the forces of liberalism, “wokeism,” and multiculturalism – those radically “Un-American” ideas that are threatening “real” (read: white Christian patriarchal) America – have already become. In this way, Biden’s pledge is perceived as yet more evidence that the Right is on the retreat. It is impossible to understand conservative politics in general without grappling with this pervasive siege mentality.

Read entire article at The Guardian

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