Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak, hammered him for voting against Elena Kagan’s nomination as Solicitor General of the United States.
In a floor speech on March 19, 2009, Specter said:
I have gone to really great lengths to find out about Dean Kagan’s approach to the law and approach to the job of Solicitor General and to get some of her ideas on the law because she’s in a critical public policy making position… We had an extensive hearing where I questioned her at some length. Written questions were submitted and she responded to them. I was not satisfied with the answers which were given and when her name came before the Committee, I passed.
I have no illusion that the issues that I have raised will prevail. I think it is pretty plain that Dean Kagan will be confirmed. But I do not articulate this as a protest vote or a protest position but really one of institutional prerogatives that we ought to know more about these nominees; we ought to take their confirmation process very seriously.
As a Supreme Court justice, Kagan would be in an even more critical public policy making position. Indeed, TV One’s Roland Martin observed, “Appointed for life, these justices can have a lasting impact on this and future generations.”
So African American leaders are taking the confirmation process very seriously and asking questions.
Some of the most pointed questions are being asked by black women who say they “have to have more information before we know whether we’re for or against her.”
During an appearance on “Washington Watch,” Melanie Campbell, the convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, said:
First and foremost, this is not about being against the President. That’s the first thing. It’s about doing …our due diligence as leaders. For the last two years, even before the President was elected, it was, “He’s not going to be the African American president. He is the President of these United States…If that’s the case, then you have a right to ask questions. You have the right to probe.Barbara Arnwine, the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, added:
There are questions about where was she on affirmative action. There are these issues that have to be sorted out and we just want answers. We want information. Our duty as civil rights groups is to look at the complete record.
Let’s be clear: Black civil rights and political leaders harbor no illusion that Kagan’s nomination will be derailed.
Instead, what’s at stake is the “delicate dance” between African Americans and President Obama.
Martin, the host of “Washington Watch,” recently wrote:
I’ve been told countless times by folks on both sides that Obama can’t be seen as favoring African-Americans over others, and his White House has been especially scared of touching anything dealing with race. As a result, black civil rights leaders and prominent Democrats have largely bitten their tongue, unwilling to publicly take on the president and some of his decisions. Instead, they quietly fume, mumbling under their breath and offering their critiques in measured tones.
Yet I have gotten the sense that black civil rights and political leaders may stop the racial solidarity and stand up for the principles they have long fought for. I’ve been expressly told that some have no interest in working hard or raising money in the fall on behalf of Democrats to hold on to the House and Senate.
Midterm elections are about mobilizing the base. In 2006, the last midterm election, black voter turnout was 41 percent. Black women participated at a higher rate than black men.
There’s no dancing around the fact that Obama and congressional Democrats need black women to show up in November.
The question then becomes: If you don’t respect us, why do you expect us on Election Day?