Why Some Ardent Libertarians Support Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation

 Why Some Ardent Libertarians Support Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are absolutely apoplectic about the fact that President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, has been endorsed by progressive groups that defend civil rights and civil liberties. Senator Lindsey Graham got downright emotional on the subject, declaring Jackson to be the choice of “these left-wing radical groups that would destroy the laws we know.” Graham told the nominee during her confirmation hearing, “Every group that wants to pack the court, that believes this court is a bunch of right-wing nuts that are going to destroy America, that consider the Constitution trash, all wanted you picked.”

The senator named names — citing groups such as Demand Justice and even the AFL-CIO — but he somehow forgot to mention the fact that Jackson, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, has been praised by scholars at the libertarian Cato Institute and by prominent libertarians such as former US Representative Justin Amash.

That’s ironic. When he was bidding for the presidency in 2016, Graham sought to identify with the libertarian movement, which at the time was showing some strength within a Republican Party that had not yet veered onto the authoritarian course charted by Donald Trump. “Libertarians want oversight of government programs and making sure your freedoms are not easily compromised,” Graham said. “Count me in.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, another 2016 contender, was even more aggressive in seeking to portray himself as a libertarian-leaning conservative who could be trusted to defend the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights. Before that year’s New Hampshire primary, Cruz bragged about his “support on the libertarian side” and claimed he believed that, “There are all sorts of areas where the federal government has no business sticking its nose.”

Cruz, who like Graham has aligned quite comfortably with Trump’s authoritarianism and is now positioning for a potential 2024 presidential run, was still employing libertarian buzzwords in his grandstanding remarks at the opening of the Judiciary Committee hearing on Jackson’s nomination. Grimly theatrical, as always, the Texan demanded an answer to the question: “Will you protect freedom or restrict it?”

Cruz and his fellow Judiciary Committee Republicans, who have been busy this week attacking the first Black woman to be nominated for a place on the high court, are not practically or intellectually engaged with the issues of individual liberty that concern genuine champions of the Bill of Rights on the left or the right. If they were, they would recognize that the answer to the “protect freedom” question, based on Judge Jackson’s record, is “yes.” The jurist has a history of working as a federal public defender — as a lawyer in private practice and as a judge — to protect the freedoms outlined in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, along with the ensuing amendments that sought to make real the full promise of those freedoms. Her track record of working as a federal public defender, as well as the principled positions she has taken in debates over sentencing and the treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, marks her as an active and thoughtful champion of civil liberties. So much so that genuine libertarians — a rare breed, to be sure — are quite enthusiastic about her nomination.

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