Joe Biden, who struggled to survive 2020’s Democratic primary, made an extraordinary pledge before South Carolina’s heavily African American state elections began: He would first appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
With his poll numbers at an all-time low and his party in panic about the midterm elections coming up, Biden reached out to the Democratic Party’s most loyal voters again and reiterated his promise to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who was retiring, with a Black woman to fill the Supreme Court seat.
This striking promise is a reflection on Black women’s crucial role in the Democratic Party, and the increasing influence of Black women in society. It is also an acknowledgement that Black women have been marginalized from American politics for centuries. The time has come for a correction of the court composed entirely of white men for nearly two centuries. Biden stated Thursday that this change was “long overdue.”
According to AP VoteCast (a national survey of the electorate), 93% of black women voted for Biden during the 2020 presidential election.
Nadia Brown, a Georgetown University professor, stated that it is Black women’s reliability and loyalty as Democratic voters that make it so crucial for the party’s priorities to be addressed and to keep them in the fold. “Democrats are aware that Black women will turn out for them, so they have nothing to lose if this isn’t done.”
Black women voted for Biden more often than Hillary Clinton in 2016 and were crucial in Biden’s victories in states like Georgia and Michigan. They accounted for 12% of Biden’s voters. Their support was even greater in heavily African American states such as Georgia, where they accounted for 35%. Biden won that state by just over 12,000 votes and earned the support of 95% Black women.
Biden owes a lot to Black voters and women in particular from the primaries. Biden’s campaign was in peril before South Carolina’s February 2020 primary. He secured the endorsement from Rep. James Clyburn who is the kingmaker in the state’s Democratic political circle. Clyburn pledged to choose a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Clyburn, recalling Biden’s three consecutive losses in early voting states Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada on Thursday, said that “his campaign was struggling”. “This was quite frankly do-or-die for him. I urged him publicly to support a woman of African descent on the Supreme Court.”
By choosing Kamala Harris to be his vice president, Biden made an important statement about the value of Black women in his coalition. It is a historic move to put a Black woman on that court. In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan pledged to make the Supreme Court the first ever female-run court. He also nominated Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as his presidential candidate.
Glynda Carr, president and CEO of Higher Heights For America PAC which promotes Black women in politics, stated that Biden’s promise also addresses issues Black women care about. Carr said that Black women are well aware of the importance of the court in their daily lives, citing major cases on abortion rights.
This decision is not just for Black women, but also for all voters who care about ensuring that the government accurately reflects the population, stated Tom Bonier, a Democratic data analyst. He said that it should be a rallying call for Democrats of all races.
Bonier stated that Biden is currently suffering from lower approval ratings. Part of his challenge is reassembling his coalition, and reminding the voters who sent him to Washington why they matter.
Biden’s initial discussions regarding a successor for Breyer have centered on the U.S. According to sources familiar with the matter, Circuit Judge Ketanji brown Jackson, U.S. district Judge J. Michelle Childs, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger discussed Biden’s early discussions about a successor to Breyer.
Clyburn is fond of Childs. Clyburn’s favorite child is Childs, who said Thursday that she has “everything” necessary to do great justice.
Experts say that the strong roster of Black women who have been appointed to the Supreme Court is a testimony to their professional growth over the past decade. Over the past 20 years, Black women have become more likely to get college degrees than women of other races. The court seat, while they still fall behind in important categories like pay, is an additional milestone.
Brown stated, “We couldn’t have imagined the sheer amount of overqualified women a couple decades ago.”
Adrianne Shropshire, BlackPAC’s political organization, stated that the nomination of a Black women is important for Black men. This is partly because Justice Clarence Thomas (the only African American sitting on the Supreme Court), is a conservative Republican who often makes decisions that are against the wishes of the predominantly Democratic Black community.
Although Black men may not be as Democratic as Black women are, 87% voted in Biden’s 2020 election according to AP VoteCast.
Shropshire cautioned that a Supreme Court nomination is just one step to ensuring Black voters are motivated for 2022 and beyond.
Shropshire stated, “For Black people in the country the thing that looms biggest is, their daily lives are changed.” It will be more than just an appointment for the president and vice president.
Shropshire said that it was not helpful to people to say “Well, the only thing we have is a nomination on Supreme Court.”