But Republicans could not help themselves. In long days of questioning, many of them tried to destroy Judge Jackson, or at least drag her through the muck on her way to a confirmation they knew was certain if Democrats remained united behind her.
In the end, the allure of media attention coupled with the strong gravitational pull of the right fringe of their party proved too much for many Republicans to resist. The stakes of a lifetime seat on a court that will decide some of the most polarizing issues in a divided nation have become too high, the politics surrounding the court too potent.
Plus, Republicans continue to seek revenge for Democrats’ treatment of their party’s nominees dating back 35 years, and are particularly livid at what they consider the vicious attacks on Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh by Democrats during his confirmation four years ago.
“There is this need to punch back,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, bemoaning the steep deterioration in the confirmation climate and the difficulty in correcting course.
But Justice Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by someone who agreed to testify under oath at his confirmation hearing, a far different circumstance from that of Judge Jackson, who faced a barrage of questions that suggested she was a radical on social issues and a coddler of child sex abusers. And though the Kavanaugh hearings were explosive, Democrats at least agreed to hold them, unlike Republicans who had blockaded President Barack Obama’s 2016 nominee, Merrick Garland.
This time around, Democrats were incensed, though not surprised, by the assault on Judge Jackson via a Republican presentation of sentences in child sexual abuse cases that has been widely discredited, not to mention the accusatory questions, frequent interruptions and lectures to which they subjected her. Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia, said he found many of the Republican attacks “cruel and unfair.”