Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination may not be enough to train black voters for Democrats
It was a promise made by Joe Biden at a low point in his presidential campaign, after losing both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. Fair days before South Carolina primarywhile black voters hand it over effectively the Democratic nomination, Biden said at the end of a debate that if elected, he would appoint the first black woman to the United States Supreme Court.
It’s a promise that some Republicans have since ridiculed as discriminatory Where close to affirmative action, but the President’s nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill the seat of incumbent Justice Stephen Breyer, is the only notable promise made to black voters — perhaps the only one — that Biden has managed to keep. And according to political science research and experts I’ve spoken to, this promise to nominate the nation’s first black woman to the Supreme Court East important to black voters.
In February, political scientists Jaclyn Kaslovski from Rice University and Peter Andrew R. from Washington University in St. Louis published an article in The Washington Post about their research showing that black Americans place a high value on so-called “descriptive representation”. In other words, having someone like them in a position of power — especially in the justice system — is very important to black Americans.
Kaslovsky told me that one reason black Americans might want more black people in positions of power is that they have historically been underrepresented in politics. “There is research that supports group consciousness is important for how people evaluate political institutions,” she said. “So as black Americans become more represented in the justice system, they may feel like their voice is legitimized by that institution.”
Jackson’s confirmation process also comes at an important time, as black Americans have soured on Biden over the past six months, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis of presidential approval polls dating back to October. But while Jackson’s nomination may offer the president a lifeline with black voters, who overwhelmingly want to see him confirmed, there are also plenty of reasons why Biden’s nomination of Jackson won’t be enough. While research shows a diverse court system is important to some black voters, Jackson’s nomination is unlikely to erase Biden’s longstanding problem of not addressing and implementing policies that would benefit Democrats’ most loyal base.
“Biden dropped the ball on so many things, and not just things people hoped or expected him to do, but promises he made to the American public, like student loan debt restructuring Where better manage the pandemic Where the introduction of the child tax credit,” noted Robert L. Reece, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. “I’d wager that stuff starts to become more and more important as the election gets closer, especially since Jackson’s nomination has less of an immediate impact on people’s lives.”
What works in Biden’s favor is that polls suggest black voters really want to Jackson to get through the nomination process and have them motivated by his nomination ahead of what is expected to be a grueling midterm cycle for Democrats. While surveys of medium-term enthusiasm among black Americans are generally sparse, at least one survey of Morning Consultation/Politico shows that black voters grew more enthusiastic for the midterm elections in late February – around the time Biden released Jackson’s nomination. Other polls also show the eagerness of black Americans to push Jackson through the nomination process. According to browser search, 89% of Democratic voters and 88% of black voters said they trust Biden’s judgment on who the next Supreme Court justice should be. In fact, of all races and ethnicities, black voters were the most likely to say they would support Jackson’s Senate confirmation, at 71 percent; only 11% of black voters said they would oppose confirmation, for net support of 60 percentage points. Asian American and Pacific Islander voters had the second highest level of support for Jackson’s confirmation: 58% would support his confirmation, for net support of 51 points.
But enthusiasm for Biden’s pick on the Supreme Court has so far not translated into support for Biden himself. In fact, disillusionment with his administration has grown over the past six months.
Sure, Biden’s approval ratings started to dip last summer, as my colleague Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and I reported in February, but they’re more fluid now because he’s had a slight bump in the over the past few weeks. Still, Biden’s approval is down overall, and the dwindling support among black Americans is particularly notable given that this block helped clinch the presidency for Biden in 2020.
That said, not only are Biden’s struggles with black voters now part of a larger trend in his abysmal approval ratings, but, according to Reece, other frustrations likely play a role as well — for example, a lack of movement on critical political concerns. to like police reform, voting rights legislationCOVID-19 rates and inflation, which disproportionately affect American blacks.
In the short term at least, Jackson’s confirmation — assuming it goes smoothly — may galvanize some black voters. But, Reece warned me, if it’s the only something the Biden administration is banking on to woo the black vote, it probably won’t be enough. “People need tangible things. Not just token representation to get out and vote, especially mid-term,” he said. “Not only do fewer people generally votebut Republicans tend to vote in higher proportions.
In other words, while the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination should not be discounted, the Biden administration should not ignore the fact that nominations and platitudes alone may not be enough to persuade the black voters to turn out en masse this year in the same way. they did it in 2020.
However, Democrats have long struggled to engage black voters, and that’s a symptom of a larger problem, as former FiveThirtyEight lead writer Farai Chideya explained ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Because black Americans reliably vote for Democrats, they are somewhat treated as a “captured” electoral bloc: that is, they are often ignored by Republicans but taken for granted by Democrats. . As a result, ruling Democrats, including Biden and current members of Congress, tend not to address or prioritize many policy concerns of black communities.
Admittedly, Jackson’s nomination is quite far from the midpoints, and there’s still plenty of time for voters to forget that Biden has reached that milestone or warm up with him before November. As seen in the Morning Consult/Politico poll, as well as tracking polls by YouGov, Biden’s standing among black Americans has the potential to rebound. But, as Reece told me, “Biden will have to rely on something else to motivate black people in November. I don’t know if Jackson’s nomination will be the thing that gets people out of their seats for a midterm election.