The early debate over Stephen Breyer’s replacement has reflected the logic of “anti-racism” — the president rules out most possible nominees on the basis of an explicit racial and gender test, and when people object, they are the ones who are racist.
There are defenses that can reasonably be made of Biden’s commitment to nominating a black woman: Ronald Reagan made a similar assurance; the personal characteristics of picks inevitably figure in nomination battles; and anyone Biden selects will have impressive credentials by any reasonable standard. But it’s insane to argue that it’s racist to advocate a race-neutral process that selects the best candidate whatever his or her race.
This, nonetheless, is a theme on the center-Left. Brian Stelter says that “white identify politics” undergirds criticism of Biden’s pledge:
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 30, 2022
Former Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart thinks Republican opposition to Biden’s nominee will be racism pure and simple:
A leading Republican Senator said he does not expect a single Republican vote for Biden’s Supreme Court nomination. No one has been picked. The only thing we know is it will be a black woman. Yet they’ve already decided she’s not qualified. It’s a pure demonstration of racism.
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) January 29, 2022
As Ed Whelan has pointed out, there is also an insistence that anyone noting that some potential Biden picks are weaker than others is committing some kind of hate crime:
Lots of folks questioned/challenged (often unsoundly, to be sure) the qualifications of leading Supreme Court contenders on past vacancies. So why is it suddenly off limits now? And why must we pretend that all short-listers are *equally* qualified?
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) January 29, 2022
When Ed linked to an analysis that found the legal writing of potential Biden pick Ketanji Brown Jackson lacking, the analysis was immediately deep-sixed, presumably on grounds that it was racially insensitive.
The public is still unsympathetic to this kind of thinking. From a new ABC News poll:
During the spring 2020 presidential primaries, days before his set of big wins on Super Tuesday, Biden pledged to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, if elected. Now, with the chance to do so, just over three-quarters of Americans (76%) want Biden to consider “all possible nominees.” Just 23% want him to automatically follow through on his history-making commitment that the White House seems keen on seeing through.
Of course, that’s not going to stop anyone on the center-left from supporting a racial test for Biden’s nominee and portraying dissenters as unhealthily obsessed with race.