Earl Ofari Hutchinson
There’s absolutely no doubt that if SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh flops, Trump’s next pick will be a woman. That will serve several purposes. There’s little risk that a woman will have a rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment skeleton in her closet. The GOP women senators who slightly buckled on Kavanaugh will happily embrace her. That also goes for a lot of women who vehemently opposed Kavanaugh. They’d have to think hard about opposing her. At the very least it would divide the ranks and as far as Trump and the GOP is concerned that’s the same as diffusing the opposition. A woman pick would give Trump a chance to brag that he is not the sexist, misogynist, p…. grabbing woman denigrator that he is because he elevated a woman to the high court.
None of this makes the choice of a woman SCOTUS nominee any less cynical, crass, and conniving. It certainly doesn’t make the prospect of a Trump handpicked woman on the SCOTUS any less dangerous. She’d still come from the ranks of court prospects that have been painstakingly picked by the ultra-conservative Federal Society and Heritage Foundation. And they have done their jobs well they culled out some of the most far right legal ideologues one could imagine to pack the federal judiciary and the SCOTUS. Kavanaugh was at or near the top of their list that they shoved in front of Trump and he dutifully picked him.
The society, though, made sure that their list wasn’t just made up of a bunch of good ole’ boys. It found more than a few female suitable hard-right legal types. Let’s look at them. The name that was bandied about almost as much as Kavanaugh’s as someone who might get the nod to replace retiring justice Anthony Kennedy was Amy Coney Barrett. She’s the unabashed darling of conservative evangelicals. She’s a Catholic, affiliated with a rightist evangelical group People of Praise, and makes no secret about her opposition to abortion. Though she solemnly swore that she’d uphold the law and not her beliefs during her confirmation testimony for an appellate court slot, few believe her. This almost certainly makes her a non-starter with women’s groups.
There five other women on the Federalist Society’s short list are Joan Larson, Allison Eid, Margaret Ryan, Diane Sykes, and Britt Grant. They all have the things which the society demand in a potential SCOTUS. They are conservative, and in a couple of cases, hard core conservative. Two clerked for Clarence Thomas. Another clerked for Antonin Scalia. They are sitting judges. A couple have gone through the confirmation process for the appeals court spots. They are relatively young. They don’t have an extensive paper trail of ruling and opinions, and writings to take shots at.
Playing the gender card potentially solves one problem for Trump and the GOP. That is it takes the sex minefield off the table. It doesn’t solve another. That is the clock is winding down. There will be only a few weeks until the November mid-terms. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ploy was to quickly ram Kavanaugh on to the high court to lock down the ultra-rights long dreamed of 5th conservative vote on the Court.
This timetable would be totally derailed if they must start from scratch again. They’ll have to do what should have done with Kavanaugh; namely vet her properly. That means that all information about her past by revealed to know just who this person really is. This requires full transparency to ensure that that vital information is forthcoming and gets a full public airing. This takes time; time which is exactly with Trump and the GOP didn’t want to take.
The difference this time is that millions will be watching closely. And congressional Democrats will be even more aroused. The big knock against them, especially Senate Democrats, is that they have been to gentile, compromising, and willing to make nice with the GOP. This time around they will likely pull out all legal and legislative stops to bog down the confirmation of a Kavanaugh replacement. Just as important women’s and civil rights groups are energized and in high gear on the SCOTUS. They will be poised again to campaign long and loud against shoving a female version of Thomas or Scalia on the high court.
It’s no secret that number one on the Supreme Court wish list for the right is to nail Roe. v. Wade. Kavanaugh was viewed by the right as the point man for this. With Kavanaugh out of the money, the danger is still very much there. A woman pick won’t change that. If anything, it makes the danger even greater and the need to stop her ascension to the SCOTUS just as great as the need was to stop Kavanaugh.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.