By: Jerry Ford Jr. Contributing Writer
President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick B. Garland sent a wave of disappointment through many African American and progressive communities last week. The announcement Wednesday began the expected extended political siege surrounding the nomination. Democrats are seeking to pressure Republican incumbents in tough reelection campaigns and by extension, Republican leaders look to maintain their Senate majority, while at the same time preventing any Supreme Court nomination under President Obama. However, Democrats might want to start thinking about working just as hard to stop the President’s nomination of Garland.
The President this week handled the cards dealt to him after the death of long time Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia like a world class political poker champion. Obama’s mastery in the arts of political maneuvering became an essential tool that he leaned on heavily to advance his agenda through a toxic climate in Washington, D.C. during his presidency.
Obama’s pick of a centrist appellate judge to serve as the replacement of the late conservative Justice Scalia can be seen as a genius move to expose the hypocrisy of the avow destructionist Senate Republicans. Or it could be seen as a missed opportunity.
Mitch McConnell within hours after the death of Justice Scalia made an unprecedented move by pledging not to entertain any Supreme Court nomination of the President. Since Obama’s election, Republicans have made it their purpose to stand up to and obstruct a President who has deliberately transformed this country towards a progressive direction.
The successes of President Obama have thrown conservatives into complete disarray over the course of his Presidency. Obama’s continued political beat downs of the Republican establishment are yet to be over as proven by the President’s Supreme Court nomination.
This nomination of Garland sent a loud message to Republicans letting the leadership know that this President still has plenty of fight left in him.
The Republican obstructionist plan could back fire in their face after President Obama’s nomination threw 3 Republican Senators into a vulnerable position. Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), all of who are up for tough reelection fights, each are open to separating from leadership to meet with Garland. The president should receive some political points for turning the tables on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership.
As politically savvy as this might have been for President Obama, the negative consequences should be noted. President Obama missed an opportunity to leave a profound effect on the court, for many generations to come, by failing to appoint a Black woman.
The disappointment felt across this country, after the nation’s first Black president failed to place a Black jurist on the court, will leave a sour taste in the mouth of many loyal Obama supporters. This disappointing nomination comes after much speculation about a possible appointment of the first Asian American or African American woman to the court.
The appointment of Antonin Scalia represented the voice of the Ronald Reagan Era for many years after his Presidency. Reagan’s Vice President George H. W Bush left his mark with Clarence Thomas. This was an opportunity for President Obama to leave a mark on the court forever and uplift an African American community that came out in record numbers to put him in the White House.
This was a chance for the President to replace a Ronald Reagan ultra conservative ideologue with a transformative Black progressive figure that Thurgood Marshall would have been proud of to call a colleague.
Progressives and African Americans didn’t reelect President Obama so that he would nominate Merrick Garland. The only good news for progressives is found in the fact that a Senate hearing for Garland seems to be unlikely.
However, in the likelihood that Hillary Clinton defeats the Republican nominee in November, this nomination has to be stopped and it will have to be stopped by Democrats.
African American women have proven their loyalty to the former Secretary of State by overwhelmingly supporting her during the primary election. So it would only seem right for the first woman President to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Until then, Democrats must prepare themselves to obstruct the process if it comes down to it. Standing up against the President should be seen as tough love. Democrats must stop this appointment to save the progressive movement and ironically save the legacy of President Obama.
This is imperative because Garland has no record on important issues like abortion and maintains a lot of centrist views. It will only take one time for Garland to take sides with conservatives in a landmark case to taint the legacy of the first Black President.
List of Possible Black Female Supreme Court Justices
LEAH WARD SEARS Age: 58
First African American female chief justice of a state Supreme Court; in 1992, the Cornell graduate became the first woman and youngest person appointed to Georgia’s Supreme Court.
KAMALA HARRIS Age: 48
The first African American Attorney General in California
DEBORAH BATTS Age: 66
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Batts currently sits on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; first openly gay African American federal judge.
JUDITH ANN WILSON ROGERS Age: 73
Replaced Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. After serving as chief judge for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals from 1988 to 1994, Rogers was nominated by then-President Bill Clinton to fill the vacancy that Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination left on the U.S. Court of Appeals.
LANI GUINIER Age: 63
First African American female tenured professor at Harvard Law School. Bill Clinton was forced to withdraw Guiner nomination for assistant attorney general for civil rights when some of her writings on affirmative action sparked controversy among conservative lawmakers.
VANESSA GILMORE Age: 56
At the time of her appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 1994, she was the youngest sitting federal judge in America.