Speculation rising that Ryan Bounds will take another stab at the Ninth Circuit.
There’s a thriving industry of bobbleheads on television committed to telling complacent Americans that racism is never an obstacle to success. It’s foundational to the worldview that re-justifies the success stories of the denizens of suburban mediocrity, critical to the guilt-free waving away the fact that they haven’t run into a person of color shopping at their grocery store in 15 years. Racism can’t be an obstacle to success or else, perhaps, these folks would have to confront the possibility that they’ve been benefitting from, if not complicit in, a racist regime the whole time.
Well, prominent Republicans are here to assure you that racism really isn’t an obstacle. Only they mean “being racist is no obstacle.” It’s a subtle difference, but it all comes together.
Law360 reports that Ryan Bounds, the Ninth Circuit nominee who dropped out of the running after Senators Tim Scott and Marco Rubio expressed an unwillingness to let go of a string of racist (and sexist… though it’s unclear how much if at all those impacted the two defecting Republicans) college essays that Bounds wrote, is touring Capitol Hill again, fueling speculation that prominent Republican Senators — potentially in coordination with the White House itself — hope to see Bounds renominated next year now that the party’s slightly expanded Senate majority would moot no votes from Scott and Rubio.
This news comes on the heels of the failed nomination of Thomas Farr, whose connection to racial disenfranchisement efforts and obfuscation about it also proved too much for Senator Scott. But as Farr nomination slipped away last week, observers were already buzzing that the White House would just renominate him in the next session — a possibility that feels even more likely when paired with these rumors about Bounds.
During the confirmation process for now-departed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a lot of people pointed to the fact that a Republican-dominated Senate had nixed his bid for a judicial seat in the 1980s on the grounds that he was too racist. One might have thought something like that would doom a nominee, but instead it was only a preview of one of the administration’s core narratives: racism is no obstacle to success. The forces that seek to hold people accountable for racism — in word or deed — must be confronted and defeated at every turn. Sessions had to be successfully confirmed by the body that once rejected him. An alternate pick would never do because it could never send that signal.
And now Bounds may be getting the same treatment.
“Ryan Bounds is a well-qualified lawyer with excellent character who was treated unfairly. I hope he is renominated to the federal bench next year,” Lee said in a statement to Law360 Friday.
Similarly, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the outgoing chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he did not think Bounds was treated fairly during his confirmation process. Walden, who consulted with the White House on the Bounds choice as well as other nominees from Oregon, said he had not been involved in discussions about renominating Bounds or picking anyone else for the seat.
“He’s a very talented lawyer. I was very supportive of him. I remain supportive of him. I don’t think he got a fair shake,” Walden said.
And it’s no accident that the public relations narrative they’re trying to spin hangs so heavily upon “fairness.” For these folks, facing consequences for past racism is fundamentally “unfair,” it upsets the natural order of things, and it’s a reproach that can only be cured by doubling down. If accountability for this stuff were ever “fair” then who knows what might happen.
David Lat thinks Ryan Bounds is an OK dude and that his college writings shouldn’t define him. Fair enough, he knows him personally. But if Bounds actually wants to send a message to the world that he recognizes and respects the errors of his past, he’d reject this nascent effort to slime him onto the bench. He’s got a good career and prospects abound. He can move on with his professional life without acting like he deserves to have the world take him at his word — which is all we really have since he still openly aligns himself with a judicial philosophy that gutted the Voting Rights Act. Indeed, if he plays along with this farce, it underscores how little he cared about the controversy in the first place.
There’s nothing “unfair” in accepting consequences. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that’s the route America is going to take right now.