Jul 1, 2010 - Issue 382
Supreme Court Hearings Remind Us of What’s
I don’t know about you, but after watching the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, I was given the distinct impression that Thurgood Marshall was being subjected to a criminal trial, post-mortem, by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The late, great Supreme Court justice - and the first African-American to sit on the high court - was mentioned no fewer than 35 times the first day. Meanwhile, President Obama was mentioned only 14 times.
Elena Kagan has the nerve to actually admire such a man as Marshall, a civil rights giant who served as lead attorney in the Brown v. Board of Education case, and served as a jurist of high distinction. She even served as a law clerk to the man. How dare she! Didn’t the White House people properly vet this candidate, so as to discover such disturbing, and potentially deal-breaking, information in her past?
Each time a Supreme Court nominee comes before the Senate, we should expect the same thing: one group of lawmakers will ask thoughtful, probing questions in an attempt to determine the candidate’s suitability for the nation’s top judicial body. But the other group, generally a contingent of dour white-male, pro-corporate, segregationist holdovers, are charged with the task of disrespecting any nominee that does not subscribe to their narrow and flawed worldview. And it is this second group - which never passes up the opportunity to portray themselves as the twenty-first century reincarnation of Senators Strom Thurmond, Theodore Bilbo and James Eastland - that tells you all you need to know about the nature and purpose of these hearings.
And these Republicans spent valuable time sullying the name of a man who accomplished more for this country than they could ever dream in a thousand lifetimes, and whose shoes they are unworthy to fill collectively, much less shine.
words, perhaps, but the unsolicited commentary those senators provided
that day was harsh, and was said in the presence of Justice Marshall’s
son. The common theme was that liberal activist judges are evil, whatever
“activist” means, with particular attention paid to
In his opening statement, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) reminded us that Elena Kagan “clerked for Judge [Abner] Mikva and Justice Marshall, each a well-known liberal activist judge.” Yes, she clerked for a Jew and a black, and we know what happens when you get those Jewish and black civil rights-loving activist types together. Surely this thinly-veiled racist point was not missed by the Tea Party base for which Sessions’ troubling message was intended, provided their mental capacity allowed them to catch it.
Sessions is not one to be in judgment of anyone, yet he remains on the
Senate Judiciary committee. This is the man who was rejected by the Senate
for the federal bench because he opposed the Voting Rights Act. As a
Race was a fixture of the Sonia Sotomayor hearings, and apparently race is a big part of the Kagan hearings, even though Kagan is not a person of color. That’s because the ultra-Right Republicans can’t let it go. Race-baiting is their crack, if you will, and they refuse to get treatment for their affliction. The race card won them many an election. And though their base of good ol’ boys is dwindling, they refuse to divest themselves of a strategy that is doomed to failure in light of changing demographics.
Kagan hearings, or any Supreme Court hearings for that matter,
are part of the war to win over the hearts and minds of
In the end, the real question is whether we want the Dred Scott court and the Plessy court, or the court that gave us the Brown decision. It’s for the people with power or its power for the people. And that’s what these hearings are all about.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to The Huffington Post, theGrio, The Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.