Part of it, as Roy Edroso says, is that it’s safer than saying what they want on the Court: judges who’ll overturn Roe, Obergefell, Griswold (the decision that says states can’t stop married couples from using birth control) and (as noted Thursday), some of them would like to let states ban interracial marriage as well.
I think there’s more to it though. First, let me note that the charge is a lie. Conservative ex-prosecutor Andrew McCarthy explains that what they’re calling soft on pedophiles means eliminating the mandatory minimum sentences where the defendant received or distributed child porn, and this is not a radical position (as someone who usually loathes McCarthy’s views, I’m happy to see he’s not always wrong). McCarthy points out the risk of sending a teenager like this (one of Brown’s cases) into adult prison with serious criminals Or there’s the North Carolina teenage boy charged with a felony for sexually victimizing himself.
Conservatives aren’t interested in that kind of nuance. Possibly they hope to make Jackson so toxic she won’t get the seat on the court; definitely they’re brushing up their moral cred by posing as protectors of children. Just like claiming Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill is about fighting pedophiles so everyone who opposes it is a “groomer.” Or the QAnonites’ delusions that they’re battling a vast web of pedophiles embedded in the Democratic Party, Hollywood, etc, and Trump is going to clean it up. Hawley and Cruz shrieking about endangered children is a shoutout to QAnon voters.
Of course, when it’s a Republican man of importance such as Alabama’s Roy Moore, harassing underage girls becomes virtuous. And they’re probably fine with Utah requiring inspection of kid genitals to ensure no trans kids are playing sports for the “wrong” side. But it’s not about hypocrisy as much as their determination to make themselves and their voters look good by contrasting them with the supposed pedophiles on the other side.
As Fred Clark says (quoting the movie Back to School), if you want to look thin, stand next to fat people. Likewise if you want to feel virtuous, to convince yourself you have the moral high ground, pretend your opponents are child molesters, or in the case of QAnon, Satanic child molesters. The point, as Clark said elsewhere, is not that child molesting is bad, it’s that they personally, heroically, hate child molesters!
Sure, Jesus said we should remove the beam from our own eye instead of condemning the sawdust in our neighbor’s eye — but that doesn’t apply to Satanic sawdust! As Hilzoy says, self-righteous hate is a drug, and it’s corrupting. Once you imagine you have the moral high ground it’s hard to let go and accept that posting QAnon memes about “pedos in Hollywood” doesn’t make you a virtuous person. Better to keep bearing false witness against Hilary Clinton, Tom Hanks, Ketanji Jackson Brown or whoever the target of the day is. And when people point out the lack of evidence or solid proof they’re not what you claim, tell yourself they’re in on it too.
And then you end up like Robert Forster, an anti-gay anti-trans Mississippi politician who advocates executing trans-rights supporters because you can’t compromise with people who “groom our school-age children.”
As C.S. Lewis (quoted in one of the Clark links) says, a determination to believe your enemies are monsters never ends well. It is, indeed, “the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”
And here we are.