Ted Cruz has clearly never heard of the Streisand Effect.
During this week’s Senate confirmation hearing for Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s choice to replace outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, Cruz tried to score points by quizzing the nominee on her views about critical race theory and other contentious social justice issues. The pugnacious junior senator from Texas even brought props: a series of books intended to portray Jackson by association as a puppet of the far left.
One of those books was The End of Policing, a 2017 volume by sociologist Alex S. Vitale, published by the left-wing U.S. house Verso Press. It is entirely unsurprising that Cruz would find the book distasteful: it argues that funding for police in the U.S. should be diverted to harm reduction programs, drug legalization initiatives, and the like.
However, if Cruz intended to use the book as an example of everything that is wrong with social justice attitudes in the U.S., his scheme backfired in a pretty spectacular way. Two days ago, Vitale tweeted that as a result of Cruz’s stunt in the committee hearing, the five-year old book (an updated version was brought out at the end of last year) has found its way onto the bestseller list.
It appears that Cruz wasn’t paying attention to the fate of Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, which also became a bestseller after a Tennessee school board banned the work for Grade Eight students.
Vitale, who claimed in The Nation to have been “surprised” to see his book brandished during the confirmation hearing, wrote that by attempting to link Jackson to the ideology behind critical race theory, which has become a go-to target for far-right figures in the U.S., he was sending a not-so-subtle signal to the Republican Party’s Trumpist base. “Cruz doesn’t actually want to debate the fine points of legal jurisprudence, much less explore the nature and history of American racism,” Vitale wrote. “Instead, he wants to suppress such discourse through McCarthyist fearmongering. Cruz is hoping the American public will be terrified by the idea that their children are being exposed to the existence of American racism in its many forms.”
Indeed, the senator didn’t stop with Vitale’s book. He also quizzed Jackson on her position regarding a number of other titles, one of which was Antiracist Baby, a children’s book by Ibram X. Kendi and illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. Kendi, who is at the forefront of critical race theory discourse, authored three of the five books Cruz sought to question Jackson about.
If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Jackson’s qualifications to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, you’re not alone: Jackson wonders the same thing. In response to Cruz’s obvious provocations, the SCOTUS nominee replied, “I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas. They don’t come up in my work as a judge, which I’m respectfully here to address.”
One wouldn’t be out of line to assume that Cruz has not read The End of Policing either, given the pristine nature of the copy in his hand. This did not escape the attention of Democratic congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who took the opportunity to take a well-deserved swipe at Cruz on Twitter.