Like Pelosi and Hoyer, Jim Clyburn personifies what is wrong with Democratic leadership. It isn't just that he's tooled for the job and should retire 5 minutes from now. Nor is it just his conservative, corrupt, careerist approach. Clyburn represents a repulsively gerrymandered created for him, where as many black voters across diverse parts of South Carolina, from neighborhoods across the Little Back north of Savannah, right into north Charleston and up into Columbia, are all packed together to keep them from voting in other districts. To politically segregate as many Black voters as possible, the grotesquely corrupt South Carolina trans-partisan political establishment has given Clyburn a district that includes parts of 16 counties. The monster they've created is over 60% minority. The other districts (white) have an average of 7 counties each. When Clyburn suggests something-- almost anything-- look in the opposite direction for something better. So when Clyburn came out in favor of the least qualified of all the women on Biden's short list of potential Supreme Court nominees, it should have surprised absolutely no one. Jumping on Lindsey Graham's corporate bandwagon urging Biden to nominate Michelle Childs, is quintessential Clyburn.
Speaking of which-- every single member of Congress I've spoken to has said the same thing: "No comment." But when pressed, they all said Biden's short list inclusion of D.C. Circuit Court judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a hopeful sign that the president will do the right thing, rather than follow the advice of conservative corporate whores Graham and Clyburn. "At a time like this," one top Capitol Hill source told me on condition of anonymity, "a principled justice is what's called for, not a hack."
There's been a great deal of pushback against Childs on 3 fronts: she's anti-union, she's bad on criminal justice, she's a corporate shill, and she's a mediocre judge, something Clyburn used the Roman Hruska argument to defend (namely that medicare people need representation too, apparently unaware that that is a function of the House of Representatives, not the Supreme Court).
Yesterday, Washington Post reporters Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim wrote about labor's wariness towards Childs. Their point is that union leaders are "citing her time working on behalf of employers against worker claims. 'She comes from an anti-union law firm where she spent time defending employers from claims of civil rights and labor law violations,' David Borer, general counsel of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in an interview. 'That’s not what we need.' ... Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said she enthusiastically backs Biden’s promise to choose the first Black woman for the Supreme Court because 'it’s past time and Black women are amazing'-- but that it should not be Childs. 'There’s a long list to choose from,' Nelson said. 'That’s why it’s great that President Biden can pass on a management-side lawyer like Childs, who has argued disdainfully against workers’ rights in favor of several other candidates who have been in the trenches with workers and have a proven record of upholding worker rights.'
Some labor groups and liberal lawmakers are, for now, speaking in general terms about their desire for Biden to select a Supreme Court pick supportive of unions, without singling out Childs. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said in an interview that Biden should pick a justice “who understands the plight of workers,” but said he had not yet reviewed Childs’s record.
Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI) and Mondaire Jones (D-NY) are circulating a letter to other House Democrats urging Biden to use the Supreme Court vacancy to “voice our strong support for the nomination of someone who will put workers first.” Spokespeople for Levin and Jones declined to comment on whether they believe Childs matches that description.
But that circumspect approach is not universal.
Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America, said there “is widespread concern” in the labor movement about Childs’s record, citing conversations he has had with union leaders this week. Cohen is now at Our Revolution, a liberal group affiliated with Sanders.
“Her labor record-- her years as a management-side lawyer-- definitely paint her as somebody who could just as easily be a Republican and certainly has no record supporting workers’ rights,” Cohen said. “This is of great concern to many of us. ... She spent years on the wrong side.”
For now, Biden and senior aides are continuing to review the pool of potential nominees. The president is also putting a team of advisers in place for what is likely to be a contentious confirmation process regardless of who is nominated. The White House is formally tapping three outside advisers, headed by former senator Doug Jones (D-AL), whose selection as a guide for the nominee was made public this week.
Bad omen: Jones was one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, nearly as bad as Manchin.
Alex Sammon's piece at The Prospect yesterday makes an even more powerful case against Case than the one in The Post. Sammon's interest was not so much about her record as an anti-worker private attorney but as a district court judge, so post 2010. "On numerous occasions," he wrote, "Childs issued such punitive decisions on criminal justice issues that those rulings were eventually overturned on appeal by higher courts. Throughout the 2010s, a period where criminal justice reform was increasingly prioritized for activists and Democratic politicians alike, Childs ruled against both plaintiffs and defendants who alleged everything from excessive force by prison guards to ineffective legal counsel to sentencing errors."
Given the salience of criminal justice reform to Democratic politicians nationwide, it’s hard to reconcile a judge with such a record on criminal justice issues serving as the Supreme Court nominee of the Biden administration. Despite thus far refusing to legalize marijuana, the White House has restarted pattern-or-practice investigations into police departments, and has continued to talk up the importance of criminal justice reform.
...Throughout 2020’s campaign cycle, the Biden-Harris pairing went to great lengths to assure voters that criminal justice issues were a top concern for them, and that both of them had disavowed their own tough-on-crime pasts and the Democratic Party’s notorious Crime Bill of the 1990s.
It’s difficult to imagine someone with a record like Judge Childs’s winning votes from criminal justice advocates like Sen. Cory Booker, or even Dick Durbin, both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee and have claimed that these issues are particularly important for them. Childs’s record, meanwhile, is not shared by other front-runners: Ketanji Brown Jackson, for instance, was a former public defender and sentencing commission vice chair.
My guess is that Biden's deranged-- and sadly pathetic-- mania for some kind of phony DC bipartisanship, will make him more attuned to Lindsey Graham's arguments than to either Cory Booker's or Dick Durbin's.