Sen. Tom Cotton puts racism at the center of his attacks on Biden nominee Vanita Gupta

 Sen. Tom Cotton puts racism at the center of his attacks on Biden nominee Vanita Gupta

She’s anti-police, the Judicial Crisis Network and the Republican attorneys general from Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana claim. 

Actual police vehemently disagree. 

”She always worked with us to find common ground even when that seemed impossible,” the president of the nation’s largest police union wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Although in some instances our disagreements remain, her open and candid approach has created a working relationship that is grounded in mutual respect and understanding.”

”Ms. Gupta has demonstrated a seriousness and willingness to understand the intense challenges, and even dangers, facing police officers with the intent of improving policing at large without degrading the overwhelming number of brave and honorable police officers,” a group of police chiefs wrote.

Not that this stops the Republican attacks. As usual, Republican politicians only listen to their supposed heroes when it’s convenient to do so.

Sen. Tom Cotton took another angle in attacking Gupta during her Wednesday hearing. Cotton was outraged, outraged I tell you, at Gupta’s past statements that implicit bias is a thing, and he really thought he was going to get a gotcha out of it, with questions like “Against which races do you harbor racial bias?” 

Gupta responded by owning a universal problem. “I hold stereotypes that I have to manage,” she said. “I am a product of my culture. It’s part of the human condition. And I believe that all of us are able to manage implicit bias, but only if we can acknowledge our own, and I am not above anyone else in that matter.”

Cotton, though, was ready to pounce with the razor-sharp point that Gupta, in her role at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, had opposed three Trump judicial nominees who were people of color, and since she had admitted to implicit bias, “Should members of those communities be worried that you harbor racial bias against them, because you oppose those judges’ nominations?”

Pretty sure she opposed the white Trump judicial nominees, too, Tom. 

But of course it’s not about that. It’s about Cotton’s desire to score points with the Republican base by attacking a woman of color who cares about racial justice.

Similarly, Republicans are targeting Kristen Clarke, the head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Clarke is under fire for alleged anti-Semitism based on an incident more than 25 years ago in which she was part of a student group at Harvard that invited the author of an anti-Semitic book to speak. Clarke has said “Giving someone like him a platform, it’s not something I would do again,” and the Anti-Defamation League endorsed her, citing her “steadfast support in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

But Republicans aren’t letting this one go. At Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing to be attorney general, Sen. Mike Lee brought it up. 

”You know my views on anti-Semitism; no one needs to question those,” Garland, whose grandparents came to the United States to escape anti-Semitism, responded. “I’m a pretty good judge of what an anti-Semite is, and I do not believe that she is an anti-Semite. And I do not believe she is discriminatory in any sense.”

Gupta would be the first woman of color to serve as associate attorney general. Clarke would be the first Black woman to head the civil rights division. Tanden would have been the first woman of color to head OMB. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled citizen of the Laguna Pueblo and would be the first American Indian Cabinet member, has faced fierce opposition and efforts to slow her confirmation.

There’s an undeniable pattern here. Republicans, so outraged by the concept that people harbor implicit bias, aren’t really bothering to hide their bias—at least their sense that women of color are easy objects of attack, vulnerable to whatever ridiculous charges get lobbed. Tom Cotton and Mike Lee and their buddies in the Senate like the look of giving women of color a harder time than other Biden nominees. It tells us something about them, and it tells us something about who they’re trying to appeal to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *