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In the meantime, Jackson will join the court we currently have, and her appointment should be hailed for what it is. “Let me just acknowledge that this has never happened before,” Sen. Cory Booker enthused as the confirmation hearings began. His emotion felt genuine and appropriate, a joyful contrast to the hostile, outlandish attacks mounted by committee Republicans, who used the hearings to misrepresent Jackson’s record, relitigate previous confirmation battles, cast conservative white males as an oppressed minority, and sow panic over Democrats’ “radical agenda.” (During the hearings, the Republican National Committee posted an image of the nominee, with the initials “KJB” crossed out and replaced by “CRT,” for critical race theory.) Jackson’s merits are indisputable, and her résumé—Harvard Law School, Supreme Court clerk, federal judge—resembles those of other justices. Unlike other justices, she has also worked extensively on behalf of the poor and the powerless. Her experience as a public defender and as an advocate for prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is not a liability but rather a clinching argument in her favor—evidence of her compassion and her commitment to basic Constitutional rights.
Jackson’s appointment does nothing to change the Supreme Court’s ideological makeup—conservative judges will still hold a six-to-three majority—though it does give the court another Protestant. (Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but is now an Episcopalian.) “Ketanji Onyika,” as she told the committee, is an African name meaning “lovely one,” bestowed on her by parents exemplifying the values so many conservatives profess to treasure—heritage, hard work, family. She, too, exemplifies those values. If Justice Jackson is confirmed on a mostly party-line vote, as expected, it will say less about her than about Republican senators using a historic moment to make shameless appeals to their base.
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