The XX Factor

Confirmation Hearings or Right-Wing Bait-Fest?

This Esquire -created Kagan-hearings drinking game captures some of the comic potential in mocking the Republicans as they showboat to their base their contempt for smarty-pants Jewish lawyers from New York who don’t cross their legs like proper ladies. But they’ve skipped out on instructing users to drink every time they hear Thurgood Marshall excoriated as if he was a Soviet spy and not a Supreme Court justice with a solid reputation.

I think the fact that Republicans have decide to hold hearings on confirming Marshall instead of Kagan is confusing a lot of liberals, but it doesn’t confuse me. The word on the wingnut streets this election season is that race-baiting’s star is rising because of our First Black President, while it’s time to lay a little bit lower on the gender-baiting, due to the crop of conservative women running for office. And while a little gender-baiting is inevitable, the focus on Marshall indicates that the likely marching orders are to race-bait and refight the ‘60s.

But for all this, I have to say that my favorite bit of right-wing pandering has got to be the way that Senator Sessions insists on calling Kagan “Dean Kagan” instead of her current title, “General Kagan.” I prefer my dog whistles to be the sort that the whistler thinks are subtle but really aren’t, and this is a classic example. Sessions clearly wants his people to see him as a dogged warrior against the academic elite, and I’m sure he worries that the term general might confuse his base and make them think unholy, positive thoughts about Kagan. So he’s sticking with dean , knowing that it conjures up nightmares of libraries full of books, sensible shoes, and perhaps even a hybrid car out in the parking lot.

Photograph of Senators Lindsey Graham and Jeff Sessions by AFP/Getty Images.