During one of the 2020 Democratic debates, then-candidate Joe Biden vowed that if a vacancy opened up on the United States Supreme Court, he'd fill it with a Black woman.
"I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get everyone represented."
He made the promise again on a campaign stop in South Carolina.
This past week, news broke that the Court's oldest Justice—the liberal-leaning Stephen Bryer—would be retiring in six months after nearly 30 years on the bench. Biden once again reiterated his promise to nominate the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court.
Instantly, a parade of intellectually dishonest pundits proclaimed that Biden would be choosing a Supreme Court Justice based "solely" on race and gender, ignoring the countless Black women judges qualified to serve on the court and the centuries in which only white men were considered for the positions.
We're selecting a SCOTUS nominee based solely on race and gender and everyone is just like "meh."
— Rachel Bovard (@rachelbovard) January 26, 2022
Whoever Joe Biden nominates will be chosen based on race, gender and sexual orientation... not qualifications.
— Lavern Spicer (@lavern_spicer) January 26, 2022
Joe Biden is about to unequivocally show the country that it's perfectly acceptable to openly discriminate against white people in employment, thus eliminating all credibility, moral basis, and tangible meaning from existing laws against employment discrimination based on race.
— Scott Morefield (@SKMorefield) January 27, 2022
Fortunately, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is known for putting current developments into sharper context by looking toward history—something she did in her Wednesday night broadcast in response to this latest conservative hysteria.
Rachel Maddow calls out the Republican hypocrisy over Biden's SCOTUS pledge, "Conservatives are going crazy about it. Pretending there's absolutely no precedent for this, this is an outrageous thing that Joe Biden promised to do like Ronald Reagan did not exist. Ronald who?" pic.twitter.com/BDspKGzQu2
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) January 27, 2022
In making her case, Maddow pointed to one of the GOP's favorite President before Trump: Ronald Reagan.
On the campaign trail in 1979, the GOP had removed its support for the Equal Rights Amendment from its party platform, equipping Democrats with a vulnerability on women's rights they could exploit.
Looking to secure women voters, Reagan later announced:
“I am announcing today that one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration will be filled by the most qualified woman I can possibly find. … It is time for a woman to sit among the highest jurists.”
As Maddow pointed out:
"Of course he did win the presidency and he did go on to nominate the nation's first Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor."
Just as there had never been a woman on the court, whose rulings can immediately affect the lives of every American in the United States, there's never been a Black woman on the bench.
But you don't have to look back as far as Reagan to find a President establishing pre-qualifications for a Supreme Court nomination. As recently as 2020, in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, Trump himself vowed that he would nominate a woman to replace her—one of the few campaign promises he kept.
Maddow wasn't the only one to point this out.
"within the guidelines of excellence, appointments can carry enormous symbolic significance... one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration will be filled by the most qualified woman I can find."
J̶o̶e̶ ̶B̶i̶d̶e̶n̶ Ronald Reagan pic.twitter.com/8HycF3sb6H
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) January 28, 2022
Even aside from Trump’s 2020 vow to appoint a woman, Biden’s pledge to announce a historic appointment is not unprecedented.
As a Republican presidential candidate in 1980, Ronald Reagan promised to appoint the first woman to the court in history.https://t.co/meUDUNVTU4 pic.twitter.com/EiAVghCacZ
— Ashton Pittman (@ashtonpittman) January 29, 2022
Reagan promised to nominate a woman to SCOTUS. That led to Justice O’Connor, whom Turley invoked in calling Justice Barrett a “celebration of conservative feminists.”
But Biden promising a Black woman nominee is bad?
I guess for Turley, something’s not quite white, er, right. pic.twitter.com/U1dsUIndzb
— Billy Freeland 🚴♂️🚠 (@BillyFreelandNY) January 28, 2022
I wonder if the same people bitching about Biden wanting to choose a Black woman - something long overdue - felt the same way about Reagan committing to a first woman or GHWB replacing Marshall with a Black nominee.
Note: I’m not actually wondering.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) January 27, 2022
Reagan promised to appoint the first woman to #SCOTUS, and it was generally viewed as both a savvy political move and an overdue breaking of the glass ceiling.
Biden promises to appoint the first black woman to #SCOTUS, and the righties throw a fit.
I wonder what’s different… pic.twitter.com/eOnTFHpYZy
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) January 27, 2022
Wonder what changed.