While we were wringing our hands about the travel ban or the nonsensical plans to staff a Game of Thrones-style wall so the Night’s Watch can keep out the Mexican wildlings, the Trump administration has quietly been instituting a scheme that will affect every aspect of U.S. law. His legislative failures may be notable, but they pale in comparison with the importance of how he is reshaping the judiciary branch of America’s government at breakneck speed. Donald Trump is filling the federal bench with judges who are overwhelmingly white, “alt-right” lite and have no idea what the hell they are doing, and it’s the perfect guide to white supremacy in action.
When Donald Trump touts his record number of congressional “wins,” he is lying. He has signed fewer significant pieces of legislation than any recent president. Conversely, the number of federal appeals judges whom he has appointed quadruples the number of appointees confirmed in Barack Obama’s first year. Trump has sent 12 judges to the bench already, compared with Obama’s four. George Bush only had six confirmed, and Trump even beats Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy’s number of 11 appointees, according to Time magazine.
What also sets Trump’s nominees apart is their relative youth, inexperience and, most important, their whiteness. Federal appeals court judgeships are lifetime appointments, and the average age of Trump’s nominees is 48 years old. Compare that with the average age of Obama’s appointees during his first term, which was 53, Slate reports. This means that Trump’s judges will probably sit on the bench longer, pleasing his conservative base.
Many federal judges work well into their 80s, meaning that the new young judges could serve through seven presidential terms (when the Sasha Obama-Blue Ivy administration takes office). Tim Head, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said thanks to Trump and Senate Republicans: “The federal judiciary is being reshaped for an entire generation.”
See how that works?
According to the Associated Press, 53 of Trump’s 58 nominees are white, and only one is African American. Trump has not nominated a woman of color. That stands in stark contrast with Obama, who made a point of diversifying the federal bench. Only 31 percent of Obama’s first-year appointees were white men. More than two-thirds of Trump’s appointees are white males.
While we know that Trump has an affinity to mediocre white men, not only are Trump’s picks white and young—they are unqualified. A full 8 percent of Trump’s picks have been rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, a mark not seen since the 1960s, according to CNN.
This number includes Leonard Steven Grasz, who was confirmed to the 8th Circuit despite the fact that no judge with a “not qualified” ABA rating has been confirmed since the Lyndon Johnson administration. It also includes Trump nominee Brett Talley, even though he had never served as a judge, argued a motion or tried a case. And then there was Matthew Petersen, who did this:
Even the nominees who are qualified adhere to the Trump clique’s unique brand of diet racism displayed by Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. Take Thomas Farr, for instance, whom civil rights leader the Rev. William Barber II called a product of the “modern white supremacist machine.” Farr began his career working for segregationist and former Sen. Jesse Helms. While employed by Helms, Farr sent postcards to black voters warning them about voting illegally.
Farr has spent the last decade traveling around the country defending voter restriction and voter-ID laws passed by Republican legislatures. When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said that North Carolina’s voter-ID laws targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision,” it was speaking directly to Thomas Farr. So what is Farr’s punishment for losing that case?
He is the current nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Despite their shortcomings, racism and whiteness, Senate Republicans are confirming Trump’s nominees at breakneck speed. The Hill reports that GOP lawmakers are considering a change to Senate rules that shortens the amount of time senators can debate a judicial nominee.
What does all of this mean for black people? It means that even if Trump is impeached or decides not to run, he may have inextricably changed the judiciary for the next five years. These changes are reflected in how justice is carried out across the country. Voter-ID laws were struck down by federal courts. A federal court ruled against his travel ban.
I bet you’re wondering why Trump would nominate someone to the bench who was as unqualified as these men. Especially someone as obviously incapable as Matthew Petersen, who was nominated to fill the empty seat in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Why does this matter to Trump and, more important, what does he receive in return?
Well, if the grand jury returns an indictment against Donald Trump, Jared Kushner or any of the people being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s FBI investigation, that case will be heard in—you guessed it—the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
See how it works?