Democrats plan to take advantage of Republican opposition to Jackson

Democrats are launching a campaign in print, digital and paid television to highlight the historic confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

The effort was planned long before Jackson became the first black woman confirmed on the court Thursday, and Democratic sources familiar with the push say the ads will celebrate both Jackson and President Biden.

“You will see some media reminding voters that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris made this happen, that this is Joe Biden’s leadership,” said a strategist familiar with the planning. “You voted Democrat and this is what happened.”

The push comes amid deep pessimism about Democratic chances in this fall’s midterm elections, with the party hoping Thursday’s big win can help get Biden moving.

The president’s approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s, and Democrats are worried about losing majorities in the House and Senate amid high inflation, crystallized by rising gas prices that have spiked even higher. with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Democrats hope to rally a base that hasn’t had much to celebrate in terms of legislative victories, especially with their Build Back Better agenda stalled in Congress.

Among black voters in particular, Biden’s approval ratings slipped as Democrats failed to pass police reform and voting rights bills in the closely controlled Senate. Some warned that this pointed to a problem of enthusiasm among a key part of the Democratic base.

Democrats hope Jackson’s nomination could be something of a turning point.

Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, who spoke to The Hill from his National Action Network convention in New York on Wednesday, said he has already seen signs of enthusiasm among black Americans around the nomination of Jackson.

“Every time a lot of the speakers brought it up today there was a big round of applause,” Sharpton said. “What has escalated even normal political capital is the nasty and rude way Republicans questioned her.”

Jackson faced a number of GOP attacks on his record during his confirmation process, including lines of questioning about his sentencing in child pornography cases and critical race theory from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted. Cruz (R-Texas), respectively, which Democrats viewed as unfair.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) stated earlier this week that Jackson would not have gotten a hearing if the GOP controlled the Senate and that Biden would have been forced to pick someone “more moderate.”

House Majority Leader Jim Clyburn (SC) said in an interview Thursday that Democrats need to make how Republicans on the judiciary committee treated Jackson part of their argument in coming months, conveying the message that the Republican Party is not Lincoln’s party.

Would Lincoln have treated her that way? Clyburn said. “You have to remind people what Democrats are. Democrats want to make the greatness of this country accessible and affordable to all of its people.

“The Democrats produced the first black president. The Democrats produced the first black vice president. The Democrats put the first black woman on the Supreme Court,” she added.

Democratic strategist Karen Finney and others pointed to a recent town hall meeting held by Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, where a Republican constituent said the way Jackson was treated was “appalling.”

“I think Republicans know that and they are afraid of her,” Finney said, adding, “Those images are seared into our minds of the disrespect that she faced. Those are soul wounds for many of us.”

Party officials say that while Jackson’s confirmation won’t necessarily be a top messaging priority, Democrats intend to remind voters of how she was treated.

“I wouldn’t say this is going to be central,” said a Democratic aide. “It’s an example of Joe Biden keeping a promise that he made to the people who put him in the White House.”

Still, Jermaine House, senior director of communications for HIT Strategies, said focus groups the firm conducted showed that black voters “really wanted Democrats to support and defend” Jackson.

House noted that the GOP’s attacks on Jackson, which he described as racist, seemed to find their way into the media more than Democratic efforts to support her.

“We think there needs to be some improvement on that front,” he said. “We think there’s still a chance for the Democrats there.”

Celebrations surrounding Jackson’s confirmation begin in earnest this week.

On Friday, Biden, Vice President Harris and Jackson will deliver remarks on the South Lawn of the White House.

She Will Rise, an initiative advocating for a black woman on the Supreme Court, is hosting an event with girls outside the Supreme Court on Friday night. Several groups will also host a mural unveiling and block party in partnership with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in the nation’s capital on Saturday.

Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and director of Hunter College’s public policy program, argued that confirmation would help energize Democratic voters in the short term, but pointed to the challenge of keeping that momentum going through November.

He said the White House and Democrats should send Vice President Harris and other prominent black leaders, such as Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, to speak to voters about the importance of the moment.

“It only works if you can elevate and promote the voices of other strong black women on the campaign trail,” Smikle said.

Jackson’s rise to the Supreme Court will be an important part of Biden’s legacy no matter what, and the White House was quick to point out that he delivers on a key promise Biden made on the campaign trail.

Clyburn, who lobbied the Obama White House to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court in 2016 instead of Merrick Garland, said these moments can have a big impact on voter turnout.

Looking back, he argued that it would have led to a different result in the 2016 presidential election.

“I will always believe that if this had been done when Garland’s name came up, Hillary Clinton would have been president. All you have to do is look at voter turnout. Look at Hillary Clinton’s turnout,” Clyburn said. “I just think the black vote would have been much more incentivized in Michigan, for example, and other places, which I think would have made a huge difference.

“It would have given him a much better message to continue,” he said.

Julia Manchester contributed reporting.

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