Racism and Ritual Hypocrisy
(Soon-to-be JUSTICE Jackson, from the White House Website)
Getting this out of the way up front: all politicians engage in hyperbole at one point or another in their bids to sell themselves to voters. That’s just part of the political process. Hyperbole is when someone inflates the truth to make themselves look better.
But some politicians go beyond hyperbole to rancid hypocrisy, a condition in which the speaker claims some kind of moral high ground while having absolutely not a shred of moral fiber behind the posturing. This is a condition that afflicts hollow men and women, people who have no real core beliefs other than their desire to claim power and prestige on the public stage.
Some politicians elevate their own brand of rancid hypocrisy to ritual hypocrisy, waiting until the klieg lights turn on during official proceedings — such as confirmation hearings for Supreme Court positions — to engage in a truly despicable level of performative faux outrage designed to embarrass, humiliate, undermine and otherwise disparage the objects of their hostility for the sole purpose of getting some video clips on national news and social media. Bread and circus, feeding the maw of the masses who cannot get enough of the faux outrage machine. When the lights go out, the hypocrites fade into the background, stealthily waiting for the next sound bite opportunity. This is not about a political party or the substance of a policy debate, nor is it really about conservative or liberal points of view; it’s about moral and ethical conduct, the legitimate expectations that we should have for all legislators regardless of party or ideology. There’s just no justification for the kind of demagoguery and cheap shots that have replaced civilized discourse for some elected officials.
Whether the senators who spent hours at last week’s Supreme Court Nomination hearing trying to harass, badger, embarrass and bully Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson actually believed anything they were saying is dubious. They are not stupid people, for the most part, but they have contributed to a kind of corruption of legislative and judicial process that is unforgivable, a complete distortion of the moral and ethical center that a good government must have in order to function. Instead of telling the truth and examining facts, they made up the most absurd accusations, trying to make this eminently well-qualified judge appear to be dangerously tolerant of child pornography and an advocate for racial theories that are not at all what Critical Race Theory is really about, nor what Judge Jackson is about.
Racism — naked, unadorned, out in the open for all to see — racism was the real theme of the bullies who tried to break Judge Jackson last week. Their contempt for her was on full display for hours on end on C-span. The appalling disrespect for Judge Jackson came through in lines of bombast — certainly not really questions, but pompous and self-righteous denunciations thinly veiled as questions — that tried to impugn her judgment, her character, her commitments throughout her life.
Why did those senators try so hard to destroy this smart, effective, competent judge?
Some people will say it’s because American politics is sick with performative moments like these, that it’s all about playing to “the base” which is the lowest common denominator. Perhaps that’s partially true.
Some people will say it’s because a prior nominee — now Justice Brett Kavanaugh — was raked over the coals by Democrats because of accusations against him about sexual assault. Well. First of all, the “eye-for-an-eye” brutality of party politics right now is shameful all the way around, and should have no place in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Each case should be evaluated on its own merits, and no senator should be allowed to practice retaliation against a new nominee because of what happened to another. And, SECOND — there were very legitimate claims about Kavanaugh that demanded answers. The hearings were clumsy and ill-suited to find the truth. And they were yet another example of ritual hypocrisy.
But let’s not be distracted by “well, that’s politics” or “but… Kavanaugh.” Let’s not let those excuses cover up what happened last week.
Last week was all about the racism that is a daily condition of life for too many Americans — those who suffer its evil impact, and those who practice the evil. This nation is deeply afflicted by intransigent forces that want to exercise power and control by fomenting racial divisions and encouraging racial hatred. White supremacists are no longer hiding in the corners, they are driving trucks around the Beltway and shouting at presidential nominees in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. “Make America Great Again” is all about returning to a time of segregation and even greater oppression of Black Americans than they know today, and oppression of other persons of color, of other ethnicities and nationalities, persons who are LGBTQ, and yes, women who might be too ambitious for their own good. Racism is the most powerful of all of the evil forces, but the desire to subjugate some people in order to stay in power means that the ritual hypocrisy will steamroller everyone as it seeks approval of the base.
Shame on the leaders in the Senate who continuously refuse to impose a level of professionalism, courtesy and order when their colleagues get out of hand. What happened at the Judiciary Committee hearings is a disgrace to our nation.
Thank God for Senator Cory Booker who brought a level of humanity and courage to otherwise-tawdry proceedings. He proclaimed to Judge Jackson: “You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American.”
She is. And soon, she will be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a member of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Justice will be served, and it will be delicious.