Published March 21, 2022
As the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its hearings to consider Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, it’s clear that virtually all Republicans will oppose her. They are right to do so, just as Democrats were right to oppose the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.
It’s simply a matter of fact that the Supreme Court is a political football. That’s a result of the court’s own volition. Over the past century, it has extended its jurisdiction into a wide panoply of predominantly political issues. On many crucial matters, the final word rests with the court, not with Congress or the White House. So it’s entirely reasonable for elected officials to move heaven and earth to ensure their allies control the crucial body.
That recognition is why Democrats broke norms surrounding the confirmation of Supreme Court justices in 1987 by opposing the nomination of Robert H. Bork. No one could deny that Bork, universally regarded as a brilliant legal mind, was qualified to sit on the court. But his confirmation could have theoretically given opponents of a constitutional right to an abortion a 5-to-4 majority. Bork’s generally libertarian views also portended ill for other important liberal precedents.
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Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.