KBJ Confirmation Questions Show Republicans Willing to Throw Out Vast Swaths of Civil Rights LawRoundup
tags: Supreme Court, Senate, judiciary, Ketanji Brown Jackson
Heather Cox Richardson teaches nineteenth-century American history at Boston College. Her early work focused on the transformation of political ideology from the Civil War to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. It examined issues of race, economics, westward expansion, and the construction of the concept of an American middle class. Her history of the Republican Party, To Make Men Free (2014) examines the fundamental tensions in American politics from the time of the Northwest Ordinance to the present.
In confirmation hearings this week for her elevation to a Supreme Court seat, the highly qualified and well-respected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson endured vicious attacks from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who vow to reject her confirmation despite the fact that her record is stronger than those of recent Republican nominees and that 58% of Americans want her to be confirmed. (In contrast, only 42% of Americans wanted Justice Amy Coney Barrett confirmed.)
Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) explained: “Judge Jackson has impeccable credentials and a deep knowledge of the law,” but she “refused to embrace” the judicial philosophy of originalism, which would unravel the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights, as well as most of the other civil rights protected since the 1950s.
Indeed, the hearings inspired Republicans to challenge many of the civil rights decisions that most Americans believe are settled law, that is, something so deeply woven into our legal system that it is no longer reasonably open to argument. The rights Republicans challenged this week included the right to use birth control, access abortion, marry across racial lines, and marry a same-sex partner.
These rights, which previous Supreme Courts said are guaranteed by our Constitution, are enormously popular. Seventy percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. Eighty-nine percent of Americans in 2012 thought birth control was morally acceptable, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of 2008, 99% of sexually active American women use birth control in their lifetimes. Even the right to abortion remains popular. According to a 2021 Pew poll, 59% of Americans believe it should be legal in most or all cases.
So how do today’s Republicans square overturning these established rights with the fact that we live in a democracy, in which the majority should rule, so long as it does not crush a minority?
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