When a court vacancy does occur, several Democrats say, they are bracing for Obama-era tensions, which were papered over by former President Donald Trump, to emerge.
Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as a number of white Democrats, say they believe the party is too closely linked to elites, and that perception only hands political fodder to Republicans during campaign season.
“This isn’t being critical of the Harvards or the Yales, but I think there’s some great attorneys out there that are really, really smart that come from other places on this earth,” said Senator Jon Tester of Montana, where Democrats lost all three marquee races last year. “And I think we ought to consider them.”
Vi Lyles, the mayor of Charlotte, said, “having the broadest perspective of what’s gone on in the country makes you a better decision maker and leader.”
Even more delicate are lingering frustrations among Black leaders, many of whom went to state schools or historically Black institutions, about Mr. Obama’s arms-length treatment of the Congressional Black Caucus and his administration’s seeming preference for appointees with elite credentials.
“He was predisposed to Ivy League nominees, I think we can all agree on that,” said Mr. Butterfield.
Mr. Sellers was even blunter. “I love Barack Obama, but there was an Ivy League culture that emanated from the White House, and we got to move away from that,” he said.