The blog Mirror on America observes the GOP attack on Kagan using Justice Marshal as their foil and calls it racist. For the record, I don't support the Kagan nomination. I'm sorry, but I'm just sort of partial to the idea that a person who is going to sit on the highest court and adjudicate the Constitution, the basis of my individual rights as an American citizen, ought to have significant experience sitting in judgment and have experience in the practice of the law. So I'm not with her nomination. But I wryly and with great annoyance, like my blogging fellows at Mirror on America and blowhard Olberman, observed the GOP's attack, which sought to diminish Marshal and by doing so, damage Kagan.
They call it racist, which I don't think works well. Tagging the GOP as racist lacks precision, but if you read the charge to mean an apparent hostility to blacks as a political constituency, then its an entirely justified and foreseeable response to this performance. This is more of the same funky messaging to blacks that I've come to regard as a depressingly routine part of our political practice as a party. Using Kagan's association to a revered figure (within and without the black community) like Justice Marshal as proof of her unfitness to be on SCOTUS is clearly going to repel blacks and other minorities for whom Marshall's work to overturn segregation is legitimately heroic. What is the message the GOP sends to blacks, a group it claims it wants greater engagement with, by attacking Kagan in this way, ? The GOP figures its good political practice to attack a revered historical figure such as Marshall, the first black on the court and the man who led the effort to overturn segregated schools? And to do so in the context of an attack on a SCOTUS nominee by the first black president? That plays to the republican base all day, but it repels blacks and other minorities. Its not the political play of a party that actually cares about black votes. Its merely a continuation of the cavalier messaging the GOP does to blacks. Out of one side of our mouths we claim to want blacks and latinos in the party and out the other, we attack the heroes of the black community. Its politically stupid, unless of course, the GOP really don't mean it when they say they want blacks in the party.
Its my contention that the GOP does not consider blacks to be a political constituency necessary or essential to their aspirations for governance. Performances like this one prove my point. The Marshall attack line was a coordinated messaging attack on Kagan's nomination. They thought about it, refined it, to deliver it with the greatest impact. This is not the messaging behavior of a party that wants a greater relationship with blacks as a political constituency. Its not simple minded to read this performance and all the other cavalier and negative messaging by the GOP towards blacks as evidence of a disregard, even hostility, to them as a political constituency.