The Judgement of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: Its Implications and An Analysis of the Future of the Supreme Court

by Abbie Cawser, April 26, 2022

One of the most recently reported-on events are the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, as she becomes the first ever African American female nominee to the United States’s highest judicial court. Her hearings are currently being discussed everywhere from mainstream news shows to TikTok, highlighting the trend of increased public interest in the Supreme Court and increased personality politics that have breached the Court in recent years.

Unlike many similar institutions around the world, the Supreme Court of the United States is an inherently political one, where Justices are easily placed on the Liberal-Conservative scale. It is now seen as an accomplishment of the President to place someone on the bench– not because it is an opportunity for greater education and stronger debate, but because it increases the likelihood of the President’s policies passing easily through the judicial branch. Retirement of Justices is now strategically planned, with Justices of a certain political leaning delaying or expediting their retirement in order for it to occur under a President they support, so that their replacement would be of a similar ideology. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, Republicans rushed to pass Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment, as it was just a month before the 2020 election and former President Donald Trump risked losing the opportunity. This is an inherent risk with lifetime appointments, as electing Justices of roughly similar ages means that there are often multiple vacancies opening up all at once, and some Presidents are given the opportunity to appoint multiple Justices. In four years, Presidents Trump and Richard Nixon appointed three and four SCOTUS Justices, respectively, whereas both Presidents Barack Obama and George Bush Jr. each appointed just two in their eight years (and no vacancies opened up during President James Carter’s term). The opportunity to elect a Supreme Court Justice was a rare one, so Presidents needed to take the chance to appoint someone who will support as many of their policies as possible.

Never before has such scrutiny been placed on a Supreme Court nominee as that on Ketanji Brown Jackson. Her initial naming was controversial, as many took issue with President Joseph Biden’s campaign statement that he would appoint “the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court,” with some claiming that this undervalued the Court, arguing that “a nominee’s race or gender should not play a role in Biden’s selection process.” However, this argument is not unique in 2022, as in 1980, President Ronald Reagan made a promise to elect a female Justice, stating that he would appoint “the most qualified woman [he] can possibly find.” Whilst he failed to do so, with the first female Justice coming 13 years later with President William Clinton’s appointment of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Reagan’s campaign promise was not dissimilar to Biden’s, as it suggests nomination based on an underrepresented demographic (in this case gender). It is also important to remember that Reagan’s statement crosses party lines, and whilst not all of the outrage against Biden’s statement came from Republicans’, they were certainly the leading voice. Parties have become so polarised that they are now disagreeing with issues that their own party championed just 40 years ago, and this has concerning implications for the future of bipartisanship.

However, the arguments over Biden’s decision limits Judge Brown Jackson’s candidacy to a discussion just about race. Senator Ted Cruz questioned her on children’s books such as “Antiracist Baby” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, asking questions such as her opinion on critical race theory and if she “thought babies were racist.” Whilst critical race theory is a widely debated issue across the country right now, it is important to note that neither Justices Brett Kavanaugh nor Amy Coney Barrett were questioned on this topic, and certainly neither of their confirmation hearings involved scrutiny of children’s books. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would vote against Brown Jackson’s appointment, as she has refused to comment on the issue of adding seats to the Supreme Court, in agreement with Justice Coney Barrett, as she too had refused to comment on the issue. However, when speaking of Amy Coney Barrett, Mitch McConnell stated that she was an “incredibly impressive jurist and highly qualified nominee.” Whilst it is far from surprising that a Republican leader would denounce a Democratic pick for the Supreme Court, it is vital that the arguments made against her are scrutinised and understood, just as those made against Republican picks must be as well. In a similar vein, there has been little discussion within mainstream news of how she is the most qualified lawyer of all those sitting on the Court. The following graphic has gone somewhat viral on social media, which compares Judge Brown Jackson’s legal history with the 9 other Justices.

Whilst there is no expectation of having to agree with Judge Brown Jackson, and indeed it would be both problematic and damaging to democracy if the Court only contained members who represented one ideology, experience is something which cannot be misrepresented or denied. In the same debate speech in which he announced his intention to elect a Black woman, Biden stated that “if I were Black, my success would have been a lot harder to achieve. And I know a lot of black people that if they were White it would have been a lot easier for them.” Not only does Judge Brown Jackson’s race not undermine her experience, but it may actually show more experience; she has worked in so many areas of the legal system because she was unable to skip stages, due to barriers in place due to her race. It would be unjust to minimise her nomination to a mere diversity pick with little standing, as her experience outweighs any discussion of her race.

The Supreme Court as an institution works best when it is diverse and varied. At its very core, its function is to scrutinise the workings of the government, and this will never work when unbalanced and biased. Whilst legal systems in other countries work with the core foundation of neutrality, the entire government of the US was created with the idea of ambition challenging ambition. Every Justice, just like every President and every Congressman, has their own personal views, and the system operates best when each opinion is challenged and picked apart by an equally represented, but opposite opinion. The presence of Brown Jackson, as a left-leaning voice on the Court, would merely replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who is leaving the Court, and therefore the Court would still be politically unbalanced, with six of the nine Justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and John Roberts – representing Conservative ideals. Whilst it would be politically beneficial for Biden to appoint a liberal Justice as he has done, it will still have little effect on the Court’s overall ideology. What Judge Brown Jackson does provide, however, is a wealth of knowledge and experience, and this can only improve the Court, as the healthiest thing in a democracy is well-educated representatives. Whilst her race undoubtedly allows her to have an important voice for a consistently underrepresented group, it would be unjust and unrealistic to say that she represents the views of every Black woman, just as it would be incredulous to think that race places a role in every decision she would make on the Court, especially considering the wide range of issues they rule on each year. 

The intention of this essay is not to suggest that Ketanji Brown Jackson is a perfect candidate, or even that scrutiny of her should be easy. Senate confirmation hearings are supposed to be of great substance and hard questioning, as this is the only way to achieve the most accomplished Court possible. However, the questioning placed upon one Judge should be equal to that of another, and this is not being done. President Biden’s criticism that race should not be important when choosing nominees can only remain valid when it coexists with fair treatment under questioning, and therefore Judge Brown Jackson’s questioning should not be entirely centred around her race. By asking questions about antiracist babies and asking her to rate her religion on a scale of 1-10, we dismiss the real debate that should be occurring in regards to the Supreme Court– by having a highly politicised Court in which Presidents can only effect change in the instance of retirement or death, are we rendering the judicial branch of government inoperable and imbalanced, and how can we protect the Court from this? Will set term limits allow for a more structured and less random appointment process, so that Presidents use their appointing powers in equal measures, or will this defeat the Founders’ intentions when creating an effective Court?


Barabak, Mark Z. “Column: The architect of Reagan’s pledge to put a woman on the Supreme Court says it was all political.” Los Angeles Times, Feb 2022

Burtt, Kristyn. “Ketanji Brown Jackson Faced Some Astonishingly Stupid Questions About Racism From Ted Cruz.” SheKnows, March 2022

CBS News. “Full Transcript of the South Carolina Debate.” CBS, Feb 2020

Kaslovsky, Jaclyn and Andrew Stone. “Biden vowed to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. It might be good politics.” The Washington Post, Feb 2022

McMillion, Barry J. “Supreme Court Nominations 1789 to 2020.” Congressional Research Service, March 2022

Mitch McConnell Senate Website. “McConnell Praises Judge Barrett and Denounces Attacks on Judicial Independence.” The Newsroom Remarks, Sept 2020

Quinn, Melissa. “Mitch McConnell says he opposes Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination.” CBS News, March 2022

Schwarz, Frederick A. “Saving the Supreme Court.” Brennan Center For Justice, Sept 2019

The American Left/The World’s Center

by Abbie Cawser, November 29, 2021

In recent years, America has seen the emergence of “radically left” politicians, who introduce ideas such as universal healthcare and green climate policies. Politicians such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also known by her initials as AOC) and Senator Bernie Sanders have been described as “socialist superstars”1 and “Stalin sympathisers,”2 and have been criticised by both moderate Democrats and the Republican Party as being too radical.

Reflecting back on history, it is easy to see why this divide has emerged. America is one of the few countries that was founded on and rooted within capitalism, an economic system that is inherently much more closely aligned with right-wing ideology than with left-wing ideology. Additionally, the Cold War bred the “Red Scare” mentality (an Anti-Communist movement that targeted more liberal figures in the 1950s due to fears of connection between the Soviet Union), and therefore the impact of USSR Chairman Joseph Stalin is long-lasting. Due to this, America has always aligned itself more with the right side of politics than the left, symbolizing a continuing and everlasting form of the Red Scare even today. Therefore, when candidates such as Sanders, who promote left-wing values, start to come into mainstream politics, the outlook and public opinion is that they are too leftist, as history has told modern day Americans to fear left-wing figures. 

The irony of these criticisms is that in the grand, world-wide scheme of politics, Sanders and AOC are far from radical. Progressive candidates in the US push for reforms that strongly resemble the norm within many other countries, and it is only within the US-centric view of politics that they appear radical. While this is a perfectly understandable reason to critique or analyse them within American politics, applying terms such as “radical socialists” is far from correct. Candidates such as Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader in the UK, and Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, a French MEP for the Party of European Socialists, are much more characteristic of more extreme left-wing candidates. Corbyn championed nationalisation for a wide range of industries, a huge tax increase for the wealthiest in order to pay for welfare services, and even more of an investment in the scope of the National Health Service. In much the same way, Lienemann fought for Socialist ideals such as freezing the private sector and raising the minimum wages across the public sector. It would be inconceivable for a candidate to run with the outright name of socialist (as Corbyn and Lienemann did) in the US due to the everlasting Red Scare, and even Sanders faced criticism for being a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, an ideology much less extreme and palatable than actual Socialism. Whilst Corbyn’s views are pertinent to similar issues as Sanders’ views, they’re taken to much more extreme measures, whereas Sanders and AOC have to operate within a much more restrictive system. 

One way to illustrate the US’s restriction on leftist ideology expression is through the policies that Sanders and AOC vote for. Sanders lists the following on his website as his key ideas: a move to renewable energy, national health insurance, and more humane and greater tolerance for immigration.3 On AOC’s website, she calls for greener climate reforms, criminal justice reform, and tackling income inequality.4 All of these issues are seen as radically left in the US, but are consistent with almost every major left-wing party outside of the US, and even in many centrist or right-wing parties. For example, the Conservative Party in the UK generally reaches a consensus that their National Health Service is important, highlighting an agreement between the far-left of America and the right-wing of the UK. With this point, it is clear that the ideas of Sanders and AOC are so often dismissed in the US for being too radically left, but they are the consensus between major parties outside of America. Another example is criminal justice reform policies, which aim to grant prisoners the right to vote – a concept that is the norm in many European countries, or at the very least, an issue at the forefront of the attention of major parties. Overall, America’s major left-wing party is more indicative of a centrist party elsewhere, which means that actually traditional left-wing politics are seen as radical-socialism, resembling the political beliefs of Stalin.

A reason for why this disillusion has occurred is because of the general right-wing bias that the US operates under. The consensus of the Democratic Party is one of moderate, even centre-right politics, in the grand scheme and yet is branded as a left-wing party. Democratic Presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden would undoubtedly be part of the centrist or right-wing parties in other countries. Their policies, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, are similar to those argued for by the UK Conservative party. Biden, along with other Senate Democrats, wouldn’t commit to the Green New Deal, a progressive and expansive Climate aid program, which the European Parliament, a currently centrist/right-leaning body, supported. Additionally, one such argument often made in favour of calling Biden a left-wing politician on a global stage is his opposition to Brexit, Britain’s exit from the EU, a typically left-wing policy. However, this is also an issue supported by two Conservative former Prime Ministers: in short, Biden’s more left-leaning ideas are also those supported by right-wing parties elsewhere. Even within Canada, the election of 2020 was seen as an opportunity to decide between “Republican and Democrat: The choice between two right-wing parties.”5 While the Democrats are the left-wing party of the US, it is important to realise that almost all of American politics operates on a right-shifted spectrum, and when translated into global terms, it is very much a case of centrist/right versus far-right, with the “radical” voices merely representing actual left-wing policies. 

What is important to recognise, however, is that the goal of pointing this out is not to suggest that Sanders and AOC are not hugely influential, or to criticise their politics. They are politicians who are actually left-wing, and this is hard to come across within the US political platform. Their emergence in Congress, and the effect they are having on political debates are a positive thing. The US is an inherently right-wing country, so any movement to the left, no matter how minimal on the global stage, is progress for the left-wing voters. By shifting some of the debate to left-wing issues and by challenging those in the centre to take a stance on issues they have previously stayed silent on, the nature of American politics is revealed, and it is evident that elected officials have limited scope. If enough support is gathered for the progressive branches of the Democratic party, such as Sanders and AOC, perhaps a clear left-wing alliance may arise, and the consensus will shift to one many other countries have: an “actual” left-wing, and an “actual” right-wing, instead of continuing with one party having the label of left, and the other having the label of right, but continuing to vote on centrist and far-right policies respectively.

  1. Don McIntosh, “Talking Socialism: Catching up with AOC,” March 19, 2021,
  2. David Brooks, “No, Not Sanders, Not Ever,” The New York Times, February 27, 2020,
  3. “Issues,” Bernie Sanders Official Website, accessed November 1, 2021,
  4. “Issues,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Campaign Website, accessed November 1, 2021,
  5. Donald Cuccioletta, “Republican and Democrat: The choice between two right-wing parties,” Canadian Dimension, October 31, 2020,


Brooks, David. “No, Not Sanders, Not Ever.” The New York Times. February 27, 2020,

Cuccioletta, Donald. “Republican and Democrat: The choice between two right-wing parties.” Canadian Dimension. October 31, 2020.

“Issues.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Campaign Website. Accessed November 1, 2021.

“Issues.” Bernie Sanders Official Website. Accessed November 1, 2021.

McIntosh, Don. “Talking Socialism: Catching up with AOC.” Last modified March 19, 2021.

Not A Gimmick: The Lack of Diversity in Theatres

by Abbie Cawser, September 24, 2021

Cameron Mackintosh is a well-known name in the UK, but this is less true in the US. While you may be unfamiliar with his name, his work is much more recognisable – Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Hamilton. He is a producer for some of the most famous and longest-running West End and Broadway shows in the history of theatre. With his reputation of featuring progressive themes of inclusion, revolution, and community in these shows, one would think that he’d be a proponent for the advancement of theatre into the 21st century, but recent comments have led him to face backlash throughout the theatre community. 

Recently, when asked about the potential for transgender actors in theatre shows, he responded, “you can’t implant something that is not inherently there in the story or character… to do that, it becomes gimmick casting. It’s trying to force something that isn’t natural.”4 This exclusionary mindset separates trans actors from the rest of the theatre community, suggesting that an artist who happens to be trans would not be able to play a role as effectively or convincingly as a cisgender artist.

Unsurprisingly, this faced a significant amount of backlash from a community largely based on acceptance and tolerance. Alexandra Billings, a transgender actress currently starring in Wicked on Broadway, asserted that

“I am an actor…I am these stories because I am part of the human fabric and no one has the right to take any this away from me.… I am an actor, Mr. Mackintosh, not a gimmick…. We have been playing these musical roles in the theater for centuries. The only difference is, now we are becoming visible. And that’s frightening. That’s upsetting. This is about you and your fear and the fear of many others, but it is not about the trans community.”

– Alexandra Billings

She was far from alone in this: countless actors from Mackintosh’s own shows, as well as the entire cast of a recent production of Rent (a show that features multiple trans/non-binary actors) stood up against his words, demanding an apology and highlighting the work that trans actors have done within the Broadway community.4

On September 6th 2021, there was a Trans March on Broadway, protesting Mackintosh’s comments and claiming that it should be transgender artists who lead the conversation, not Mackintosh.5 There are also plans for a concert entitled You Gotta Have A Gimmick, the goal of which is to put the spotlight on trans artists and allow them to share their talents separately from the discriminatory comments.

Following the backlash, Mackintosh posted another statement, apologising for his comments. He claimed that his words were misinterpreted and that it wasn’t transgender artists he was against, but simply their presence in classical shows; instead, he suggested, new shows should be written focused exclusively on trans issues. The problem with this suggestion, aside from the fact that it still gatekeeps classical roles from transgender actors and limits the subject matter that he sees as suitable for them to partake in, is that the creation of new musicals is not such a straightforward solution. Plays and shows have already been written with specifically transgender roles in mind, such as Jagged Little Pill, and Breakfast on Pluto.3,2

The issue? These roles are still being played by cis actors. 

By claiming that classical roles are not suitable for trans actors, whilst also casting cis actors in trans roles with the claim that fiction should be open to anyone, producers create a hypocritical paradox that only serves to exclude transgender actors. Additionally, certain new shows such as Tootsie (a show in which a male character adopts a female persona in the hope that this advances his career) create storylines that “profit from transgender stereotypes while casting cisgender performers, to share their experiences in the business.”2

The expectation that progress will come through new shows is an excuse that has allowed for the lack of diversity within classical theatre for decades. The majority of casting in older, more renowned shows is predominantly White, with the expectation that newer shows will create roles more “suitable” for actors of colour, actors with disabilities, and trans and non-binary actors. This lack of representation is far from limited to just sexuality and gender identity – race is also massively underrepresented. 

While the issue of needing more diverse actors is a frequently occurring one, an important discussion that is often overlooked is one of writers. In the last 3 theatre seasons, over 80% of plays and musicals on Broadway were written by White creatives, as outlined in “The Visibility Report: Racial Representation on NYC Stages,” which was published by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition.1 Given that diversity is supposedly meant to be enhanced through new art (which has occurred to a certain extent, with shows such as Hamilton and Hadestown casting much more diverse artists, but has still not come close to resolving the imbalance), it seems unlikely that this will be possible in an industry where even new art is staggeringly under-representative. In 2019, a study done on gender representation within Broadway revealed that there were only 4 artists who openly identified as non-binary, with non-gender specific roles making up just 7.1% of all characters on Broadway.6 When this study was released, actor Shakina Nayfack wrote that she “just want[ed] to be playing good roles that don’t necessarily have anything to do with transness.” In short – roles don’t need to be written specifically for trans actors because they should be able to occupy any space and role they choose on Broadway.

While diversity is starting to emerge within shows, without the hiring of actors in classical shows – given these shows’ reputations of prestige and their security as a symbol of Broadway, especially amongst older audiences – progress will be slow, as these actors will still believe theatre isn’t a place for them. The responsibility shouldn’t be on young actors and writers to create roles for themselves when existing roles should be open to them.

(Dates and artists for You Gotta Have A Gimmick have not yet been announced, but follow @youcancallmesis on Twitter for updates)


  1. Asian American Performers Action Coalition, Racial Representation on New York City Stages 2018-2019’, American Theatre Wing, 2019 (
  1. Annie Lord, ‘Actor felt forced to quit musical after man was cast in trans woman role’, The Independent, March 2020 (
  1. Christian Lewis, ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Broadway’s Jagged Little Journey Toward Nonbinary Inclusion’, The Brooklyn Rail, April 2021(
  1. Greg Evans, ‘Trans Actor Alexandra Billings Blasts Producer Cameron Mackintosh: “I Am An Actor, Not A Gimmick”’, Deadline, Aug 2021(
  1. Michael Appler, ‘Transgender March on Broadway Protests Cameron Mackintosh Casting Comments, Calls For Greater Representation’, Variety, Sept 2021 ( 
  1. Sammy Gibbons, ‘Trans, nonbinary musical theater pros make ‘a place’ for their work that Broadway hasn’t’, Rockland/Westchester Journal News, Lohud, July 2021 (