I see Isaac Schorr has already noted this, but I thought I’d take a shot at it too. The Washington Post has a feature story about the influence of longtime Democratic house member Jim Clyburn. Clyburn, you may recall was consequential in saving Biden’s candidacy during the Democratic primaries in 2016. An endorsement from the South Carolinian congressman carried great weight in such a divided field and helped to solidify Biden as the choice of party moderates and the choice of African-American voters, many of whom are now the party’s moderate voters.
Clyburn has apparently been frustrated in his inability to influence personnel choices by the administration, though the article says his words still carry great weight. The subject turns to the Supreme Court, and Clyburn’s push for Biden to nominate U.S. district attorney J. Michelle Childs, whom Clyburn believes better represents the values of people in his state. Childs is the product of public universities, whereas the current favorite of progressive commentators is Ketanji Brown Jackson, with a background from Harvard.
If you know how to read between the lines, there’s a lot of interest in this story as it gets to the class conflict within the Democrat Party. Traditionalists like Clyburn really are more moderate and pragmatic and speak to a certain important segment of the party. But ascendant progressives, who reflect the party’s generational tilt toward the elite, want something else.
But then, suddenly it goes off the rails, in a paragraph that starts with a quote from Bennie G. Thompson, a congressman from Mississippi, and then adds the strangest bit of commentary from the authors:
“Nobody that I’m aware of feels that opposing Clyburn’s nomination would be the wise thing to do,” he said. “If you know that a person has been vetted by Jim Clyburn, you know that person won’t go to the court and end up being a Clarence Thomas,” referring to the Black justice whose rulings often resemble the thinking of White conservatives. (Emphasis mine.)
What in the world?
It’s strange in that it discounts the idea that there might be black conservatives — a tradition of political thought in America that has a small but impressive pedigree. But worse than that, it simply attributes ideas directly to race itself, as if they emanate directly out of the pigment of one’s skin, rather than the cogitation of a mind at work.
It’s precisely this desire to put everyone into neatly labeled packages that, I think, spells doom for this sordid philosophy of identity. It’s gross.