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Unchained Succubus: A Queer New Institutional Analysis of U.S. Supreme Court Nomination Hearings

  • Adam M. McMahon (a1)

Modern Supreme Court nomination hearings are contentious political events, as evidenced by the four held during the 109th and 111th Congresses to confirm John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Senators appear to raise suspicion of nominees purposefully through their questioning during Judiciary Committee hearings, connecting the label of “judicial restraint” with candidates who are male, white, straight, and prone to “reason.” Appointees thought to embody the feminine, nonwhite, queer, and emotional practices of “judicial activism” to offer a contrast. This dichotomous construction has made debates during the nomination process destructively reductive. A paradox thus emerges: by ignoring the importance of descriptive representation, the identity of potential justices to the Supreme Court becomes one of the most salient issues during the hearings; subsequently, this has resulted in senators using cues to create a caricature or “straw man” of nominees belonging to one or more minority groups in order to weaken and discredit otherwise qualified jurists and achieve a party “win” against the White House.

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Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
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