GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn—She’s Against Birth Control March 24, 2022
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s superb pick to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, handled herself beautifully in her televised three-day Senate confirmation hearings that started on 3/21/2022. Judge Jackson, who would be the first African American woman to sit on SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States), easily batted away the barrage of ridiculous attacks and wacky questions the GOP Senators threw at her. These hearings demonstrate that the GOP remains nothing more than the G rand O pposition P arty that foams at the mouth with cultural and, yes, racially-tinged grievances. The “G rand Q anon P arty” wants to make sure its rabid conspiracy base becomes outraged with false allegations about Judge Jackson. Hordes of GOPers, the “thinking” goes, will rush to the polls in the 11/2022 midterms to recapture the House and the Senate.
Even before the hearings began, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released a statement that painted Judge Jackson as a “radical left- wing activist and proselytizer of critical race theory.” “Critical race theory” (CRT) refers to a field of legal study that the right-wing falsely claims gets taught in elementary schools. CRT has only been taught in a few law schools. It refers to how racism can be embedded in laws and institutions. Right-wingers, however, use it to attack any discussion of structural racism (See nytimes.com, Karni, A., 3/22/22). GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) echoed nearly word-for-word this RNC drivel when questioning Judge Jackson. Sen. Blackburn, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Judge Jackson, “Is it your personal hidden agenda to incorporate critical race theory into our legal system? These are answers that American people need to know.” Sen. Blackburn additionally said she was “concerned” that Judge Jackson sits on the board of a liberal-leaning private school in D.C., Georgetown Day School. Sen. Blackburn “claimed” that Georgetown Day, a school where the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s children went, (nytimes.com, Green, E., 3/24/22), taught five-year-olds that they could choose their gender and educated them about “so-called white privilege.” Sen. Blackburn absurdly argued that Georgetown Day hosted an organization called “Woke Kindergarten” and pushes an anti-racist education program for white families. Sen. Blackburn called this program “progressive indoctrination of children” that raised concerns about how Judge Jackson might rule in parental rights cases. Sen. Blackburn implied that Judge Jackson had pushed for transgender rights and decried that “educators are allowing biological males to steal opportunities from female athletes in the name of progressivism.” There is no evidence that Judge Jackson ever made any comments on the issue of transgender rights (nytimes.com, Karni, 3/22/22). In addition, Sen. Blackburn asked Judge Jackson to give the Senate her definition of what constitutes a “woman.” Is Sen. Blackburn part of a serious judicial confirmation hearing or is she there for comic relief? These are hardly the first controversial statements Sen. Blackburn has made. On the weekend before the hearing started on Judge Jackson’s SCOTUS confirmation, Sen. Blackburn called the landmark 1965 Supreme Court ruling that legalized access to contraception, “Griswold vs. Connecticut,” one that was “constitutionally unsound.” Most legal analysts agree that the 1973 SCOTUS “Roe vs. Wade” opinion that legalizes abortion rights was based on the Griswold case. Blackburn similarly called conservative Chief Justice Roberts’ ruling upholding Obamacare, “NFIB vs. Sebelius,” one that was “constitutionally unsound.” She additionally called Judge Jackson’s stance on the Constitution “a secret (Brown, M., 3/21/22, tennessean.com).” Who is this Sen. Blackburn?
First-term Marsha Blackburn is Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator. Blackburn was born and grew up in Laurel, Mississippi where her father sold oil-field production equipment. She won a 4-H scholarship to MS State University where she majored in merchandising and clothing. She paid her way through college by selling books door to door for Southwestern Co., which sold educational materials that attracted conservative students (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). After graduation, Blackburn married and moved to the well-to-do Nashville, TN suburb of Brentwood. Her Brentwood hilltop home is known as “Up Yonder,” named by its former owner, Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl. In 1973, Blackburn worked as a sales manager for the Times Mirror Company. From 1975-1978, she worked in the Castner Knott Division of Mercantile Stores, Inc. In 1978, Blackburn became the owner of Marketing Strategies, a promotion-management firm that she continues to run (msstate.edu/cprc/blackburn asp).
Blackburn was a founding member of the Williamson County Young Republicans and chair of the Williamson Party GOP from 1989-1991 (RollCall.com). TN GOP Gov. Don Sundquist appointed her executive director of the TN Film, Entertainment and Music Commission. She unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1992, but in 1998 won a state Senate seat where she served from 1998-2002. In the TN legislature, Blackburn built a grassroots campaign to defeat Sundquist’s proposed income tax. In 2014, TN voters approved a constitutional amendment that prohibited a state income tax (Cohen & Cook 2022).
When the TN 7th Congressional District (CD) seat opened up, one that stretched from Nashville to the Memphis suburbs, Blackburn jumped into the primary. She was financially backed by the national anti-tax Club for Growth. She ran as an anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-military conservative and won with 40% of the vote. She easily triumphed in the general election. She was the first woman elected to Congress from TN without following her husband, but did not emphasize her gender. She even asked to be called “congressman,” not “congresswoman (Cohen & Cook 2022).” In the House, where she served from 2003-2019, Rep. Blackburn sought out leadership roles and staked out conservative positions. She was active in the hard- core Republican Study Committee and in 2012 chaired the GOP’s platform committee at its National Convention. Blackburn co-sponsored the “birther” bill. This legislation required future candidate to prove they were born in the U.S., a measure that played off attacks on President Obama. In 2015, Cong. Blackburn wrote a letter to the IRS challenging the tax-exempt status of the Clinton Foundation. Blackburn boasted of her perfect marksmanship score with a Smith & Wesson .38. After the Newtown, CT elementary school gun massacre, Blackburn stated that the debate should focus on mental health because disturbed people could use a “hammer, hatchet, and car,” instead of a gun (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 2016, despite Democratic opposition, Cong. Blackburn chaired a House Select Panel on Infant Lives that the then GOP majority created to review ridiculous allegations by anti-abortion activists of illicit trade of fetal tissue (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Blackburn was an early supporter of Demagogue Donald and was vice-chair of his presidential transition team. In 9/2017, GOP TN Sen. Bob Corker stated he would not run for a third term. When TN GOP Gov. Bill Haslam announced he also would not run for the open Senate seat, Blackburn became the GOP front-runner. In announcing her run, Blackburn made it clear that she would be a very different Senator from collegial Corker. Blackburn declared, “I’m a hard core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative. I’m politically incorrect and proud of it. I know the left calls me a wing-nut, or a knuckle-dragging conservative. And you know what? I say that’s all right; bring it on (Cohen & Cook 2022).”
Blackburn’s hard right stance now matches the beliefs of many Tennessee voters. TN, settled by Jacksonian Scots-Irish Protestants and originally a political battleground, has now become one of the most solidly hard-right GOP states in the nation. Dem. Al Gore initially won his Senate seat handily, but in 2000 couldn’t carry his state against “W” Bush. Middle and Western TN, formerly Democratic areas, resented national Democrats’ cultural liberalism and started voting economically and socially with “Team Red.” These two regions joined Eastern TN, a GOP stronghold since the Civil War. In 2018, the American Conservative Union ranked the TN legislature as the nation’s most conservative. The only current base of Democratic power in TN is in the mayoral offices they hold in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, the state’s four largest cities. The TN suburbs and rural areas are in the “Red” camp and easily outvote these urban areas. In 2016, Trump clobbered Hillary by 26 points in the Volunteer State. Biden lost to Trump in 2020 by 23 points, a statistically insignificant margin (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Democrats hoped that their nominee for the 2018 Senate seat, former moderate/centrist Gov. Phil Bredesen, could defeat Blackburn. However, that did not happen. Blackburn nationalized the race as much as possible. She argued that even if you liked Bredesen as Governor, he would be going to D.C. with a “D” beside his name and would vote and behave differently than he had in TN. Trump traveled to TN to campaign for Blackburn several times. Outside money poured into this race with $19.4 million attacking Democrat Bredesen v. $17.5 million going after Blackburn. GOPers were worried about this race until the very end. However, Blackburn easily won by an 11-point margin, 55%-44%. What probably gave Blackburn her biggest break was Supreme Ct. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. Blackburn strongly supported Trump’s replacement for Kennedy, Brett Kavanaugh. She stood by Kavanaugh even after he was accused of sexual assault. Bredesen stated he also would have supported Kavanaugh, but that did not matter. Blackburn’s poll numbers rose as she rallied behind Kavanaugh (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In the Senate, Blackburn continues to vote the hard-right line. In 2019-2020, she compiled a basement 5% composite liberal rating vs. a 95% conservative one (2022 Almanac Ratings). She sits on major committees, Armed Services, Commerce, Science & Transportation, Veterans’ Affairs, and Judiciary (CQ Cong. At Your Fingertips, 117th Congress). The first Senate bill Blackburn introduced would have stopped federal funding of organizations that perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood. She is an ally of hard-core right winger, “I wave my fist,” Josh Hawley (R-MO). Blackburn maintains a strong presence on conservative TV and often uses contentious language. Sen. Blackburn went out of her way to question the patriotism of former National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Vindman, remember, in the first impeachment of Trump, testified about a phone call he’d been on in which Trump pressured Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate then presidential candidate Joe Biden or he would withhold vital military aide from that country. Ukraine was already being attacked by Russia. Blackburn ridiculed Vindman, via tweet, as “Vindictive Vindman.” Sen. Blackburn, “how does your defending Trump’s ‘perfect call’ (NOT) with Zelensky now look after Russia has brutally invaded Ukraine?” Sen. Blackburn blocked election security bills proposed by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), including two that would require campaigns to alert the FBI if they’re offered help by a foreign power (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Sen. Blackburn, in hard-right TN, can probably easily keep winning re-election. The key is to keep her irrelevant as part of the Senate minority. She must not become a key lieutenant doing Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) bidding. She and McConnell must stay in the minority. The only way to do that? In the 11/2022 midterms, Democrats must come out in droves plus to add House and Senate seats so that Pres. Biden can pass his progressive agenda. Our democracy depends upon it.