Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, now and forever
“This is a historic moment for the federal judiciary and for Black women in America.”
First Things First
Before Vice President Kamala Harris presided over Thursday afternoon’s historic Senate vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, she gave Cory Booker and Raphael Warnock — two Black Senate Democrats from New Jersey and Georgia, respectively — stationary from her office with a simple directive: Write a letter to a young Black girl in their life commemorating the day someone who looked like them ascended to the highest court in the land.
It was fitting that Harris would assign the task to Booker and Warnock.
After all, it’s likely that you watched — or at least read about — Booker’s viral pep talk during Jackson’s confirmation hearings as she sat through bad-faith attacks by cynical Senate Republicans performing for a spot on the 2024 presidential campaign trail. (Booker also presided over the procedural vote on Thursday morning that permitted the final vote.)
And it’s in part because of Warnock, who flipped the Senate from Republican to Democratic control with his colleague Sen. Jon Ossoff in Jan. 2021, that Jackson’s vote was even possible in the first place.
About that vote: It went as expected. All 50 Senate Democrats, plus three Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — confirmed Jackson and, in the process, placed white men in the minority for the first time in the Supreme Court’s history.
“Sixty-six years after President [Lyndon B.] Johnson appointed Constance Baker Motley as the first female federal judge in the United States, the president and the Senate have chosen Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black female justice on the United States Supreme Court,” Linda Sheryl Greene, Dean and MSU Foundation Professor of Law at the Michigan State University College of Law, said to Supercreator. “This is a historic moment for the federal judiciary and for Black women in America.”
Leslie Overton, a partner at Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider, a New York-based law firm, expressed similar sentiments.
“As a Black woman, and as an American committed to inclusion and justice, I am overjoyed that a jurist with Judge Jackson’s impeccable qualifications, diverse experience and perspective, and outstanding character has been confirmed to the Supreme Court.”
Jackson watched the vote with President Joe Biden and other senior administration officials to watch the results of the vote in the White House Roosevelt Room.
Reporters bristled at the fact that the White House didn’t allow but a few photographers in the room to capture the moment.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said a decision was made at the last minute to keep the moment private.
Biden, Harris and Jackson this afternoon will speak on the confirmation at a public event on the White House South Lawn.
And while there has been much to be desired from Senate Democrats in the eyes of their base voters, it’s undeniable how masterfully they pulled this confirmation off.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer worked behind the scenes to make clear to the Biden administration that if they wanted their nominee confirmed with as little resistance as possible, then he could Jackson through before the Easter recess. Mission accomplished.
And Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin’s signature composure was a moderating influence during confirmation hearings that sometimes felt were moments away from irreparably falling off the rails.
The confirmation is also proof of the gravity of elections and the significance of every vote. If the Republicans were still in power, Sen. Lindsey Graham said it’s unlikely Jackson would have even received a hearing — let alone a vote on her confirmation.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented either: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Attorney General Merrick Garland from receiving a hearing after former President Barack Obama nominated him to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
And as recently as Thursday, McConnell indicated he could be willing to block a nominee if Senate Republicans reclaim the majority this November and a Supreme Court seat opened in the final two years of President Biden’s term.
Jackson will be sworn in this summer after her mentor Justice Stephen Breyer retires from the bench.
When she joins the court, she won’t shift the ideological balance of the current 6-3 conservative supermajority. But at 51 years old, she injects some relative youth into an institution where the average age of its nine members is 65.
And now that Brown has shattered yet another glass ceiling and secured a chunk of President Biden’s legacy, Black women are hopeful that this momentum will lead to even more history.
“There are yet two additional political firsts for Black women that remain unattained— governor of a state and the presidency of the United States,” Greene, the law school dean at MSU, told me.
See more: “The Senate Judiciary Committee mistreated Judge Jackson. I should know”(Anita Hill / WaPo) … “Ketanji Brown Jackson and the politics of Black hair” (Nicole Lewis / Slate) … “‘We belong in these spaces’: Jackson’s successors reflect on her nomination” (Linda Qiu / NYT)
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Today in Politics
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing. Then he, Vice President Biden and Judge Jackson will speak on her historic confirmation to the Supreme Court.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
Read All About It
Jerusalem Demsas on why so many COVID predictions were wrong:
Essentially, when things get bad, most people figure it out. They find a way to make rent, to stay in business, to work a full-time job even as they care for children or sick relatives. Many forecasters seem to have underestimated this resilience.
Women were substantially burdened, many more so than men, but they did not leave the workforce en masse. As Goldin writes, “Employed women who were helping to educate their children, and working adult daughters who were caring for their parents, were stressed because they were in the labor force, not because they had left. The real story of women during the pandemic is that they remained in the labor force. They stayed on their jobs, as much as they could, and persevered.”
Low-income renters were substantially burdened as well; but an eviction tsunami did not occur. After the federal eviction moratorium expired, renters navigated a complex web of government bureaucracy to receive emergency rental assistance; soldiering through widely reported access issues, 3.5 million households received aid through the program. To make their rent payments, they also took out loans, or denied themselves other important expenses such as medicine, food, and clothing.
That affected populations are resourceful should not be surprising; the structural disadvantages facing women and low-income renters more acutely during the pandemic well predate March 2020. Persevering isn’t pretty, and in no way is the fact of perseverance an argument against expanded social support. Conditions at the bottom of the housing market were bad enough to justify government aid, eviction tsunami or not.
Kate Aronoff on the Democrats who are worried about gas prices also begging oil companies to drill more:
A considerable number of Democrats—including most of those who spoke in Wednesday’s hearing—would also like oil companies to drill much more, in order to lower gas prices ahead of the midterms and send more U.S. fuel to Europe. The industry has said it’d like to drill more, too. These two camps, however, have different understandings of what the barriers to greater fuel production are. Democratic critics say oil and gas companies are translating high gas prices into stock buybacks and executive level pay, rather than lowering gas prices by increasing production. Fossil fuel companies, in turn, say they can’t drill more because of constraints from investors, compounded by hostile signals from an environmentalist administration. Republicans—many of them receiving generous donations from those companies—are extra focused on the final point. Obviously, the more they can blame high gas prices on the White House, the better.
All of the above parties want to see more fossil fuel production. None of them are engaging with the findings of the IPCC’s recent report: that to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, global coal, oil, and gas use will need to decline by 95, 60, and 45 percent respectively by 2050 (compared to 2019 levels).
Brooke LaMantia on sustainability fatigue:
My post-adolescent idealistic phase came crashing down around me, and rightly so. I had always been hopeful, always felt that there was something I could do to help fix things, and always avoided cynicism. But when my trust that those in charge would create change diminished, it did so completely. And it was a little bit of a relief. I don’t think I’ve been alone in feeling as if I were carrying the weight of our planet’s future on my shoulders. If that sounds familiar to you: Just take it off. Take a break.
I held myself to a standard I could not sustain, and honestly, I no longer wanted to try. I saw, more and more, how we were willing — happy, even — to take actions on a personal level and receive nothing in return, while the same was not true for the ones that were causing the most harm.
I’m disappointed and exhausted, but I still care. I’m just tired of being expected to care. This doesn’t mean I stop fighting. But I’ve given myself a break. I want more from those who can actually create a meaningful change when it comes to saving the environment — and I know I’m not alone.
Emily Stewart on the awful American consumer:
That consumers can be selfish isn’t a new phenomenon. Remember when everyone was hoarding toilet paper and masks at the start of the pandemic? But it is worth pausing and reflecting on how angry people feel when confronted with the idea.
People aren’t accustomed to having to really think about the trade-offs they make for the economy to run how it does, and when they do have to think about it, they don’t like it. Consumer-centric culture has made it easier for us to be destructive in ways big and small — to workers, to the environment, and to each other. Corporations have manufactured our high expectations, and it’s hard to reverse course.
Choire Sicha on why journalism’s Twitter problem is the journalists:
Twitter looms prominently for journalists because it’s how they get jobs, distribute their work, and make friends. Twitter also helps journalists feel and be seen inside a system that will otherwise make them feel invisible. (No, I’m not asking you to feel bad for them, I promise.) Reporters in general are anxious, and the structure of their workplace feeds that. At the Times in particular they are often starved for information and kept in eternal suspense about their status in the organization.
Reporters confuse their Twitter audience for the actual world. For obvious reasons (Caucasity), most of these reporters are on the joyless, scold-y White Twitter, which is the opposite of all this. And a small minority of people create most of the tweets one sees, part of a feedback loop that can diminish how journalists think about schools, work, business, and the pandemic. Twitter is where anecdotes are mistaken for data.
Jacob Gallagher on the men’s dress shirt:
But two years later, as America—largely freed from pandemic restrictions—returns to the workplace, retailers are watching the demand for dress shirts bounce back with force. Proper Cloth, a custom shirtmaker based in New York, reported that, in February 2022, dress-shirt sales were up 84% year-over-year, while Indochino, a Vancouver-based custom clothier, said that in that same month, it sold 191% more dress shirts than the year before. Starting in mid-2021, Brooks Brothers saw what Mr. Ohashi described as a “pop” in its dress-shirt business that hasn’t slowed some 10 months later. (Ties, though, remain a pandemic victim: Brooks Brothers said its necktie business is about 30% below its prepandemic levels.)
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