Port: In Judge Jackson's confirmation, North Dakota's senators ought to vote like elections have consequences

When the other side wins, we must accept that they get to govern.

Supreme Court nominee and federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with U.S. Senators
Supreme Court nominee and federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson departs with her White House escort and advisor, former Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), after meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the Capitol in Washington, on March 2, 2022.

MINOT, N.D. — President Joe Biden's first nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court is before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week for the requisite hearings.

And the requisite mudslinging which has become de rigueur for such proceedings in America. Wide and bipartisan Senate confirmation for even some very ideological nominees, like former Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, were common once upon a time, as this table from shows :

A table showing the U.S. Senate's record of confirming justices to the U.S. Supreme court going back to President Nixon's administration.

That's not the case anymore.

The nominee before the Senate is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She has an impressive resume. She's a Harvard graduate and clerked for former Justice Stephen Breyer. She also has the right skin color and gender to satisfy one of President Biden's campaign promises, though those things were less important when Biden was in the Senate and the judicial nominee before him was a black woman nominated by a Republican .

So it goes.


If Judge Jackson's nomination were considered merely on the merits of her resume of accomplishments, she'd be another shoo-in for wide bipartisan support.

Sadly, that's not how the U.S. Senate does its business these days.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri prone to Trumpian levels of fabulism and bombast, is assailing what he suggests ( in an overwrought Twitter thread, naturally ) is Judge Jackson's too-soft treatment of "sex offenders" who "prey on children."

Were that true, it would be alarming, and certainly a reason to keep her from a lifetime appointment to the most important job in the judicial branch of our government.

But it's not true.

Hawley's histrionic accusations have all the veracity of former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's claim that she could discern the truth of trumped-up and politically motivated accusations made against Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his travesty of a confirmation process by reading his body language .

One almost gets the idea that these people are incapable of shame.

At National Review , conservative columnist Andrew C. McCarthy, a former U.S. attorney, looks at Sen. Hawley's claims of Judge Jackson's leniency for sex criminals and finds them wanting.


"She is certainly not a harsh sentencer," McCarthy concludes after a thorough review of the cases Hawley is citing. "The terms she has meted out, though, are compliant with the law and usually equal or exceed the sentencing recommendations of the court’s probation department."

Conservatives can argue that Judge Jackson is a progressive jurist, and that's fair. She is. How else does one get a Supreme Court nomination from a Democratic president?

Judge Jackson is not someone a Republican president would likely nominate, but the Republican candidate didn't win in 2020 ( despite what the pillow guy has to say about it ). Joe Biden won, and that means he gets to appoint people with a progressive judicial philosophy to the federal bench.

The Senate's role is to confirm those appointments barring some consequential evidence that the nominees are not fit for the office.

There is no such evidence for Judge Jackson.

I hope North Dakota's senators, John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, resist the urge to continue the Senate's recent history of using confirmation hearings to settle political scores.

In many ways, this trend is a microcosm for the cancer at the heart of American politics. We like to pretend like elections don't have consequences. That even if the other side wins, we can still impose our will on the process through obstinance and intimidation.

Our republic can't survive with that attitude. When the other side wins, we must accept that they get to govern.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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