The hearings for the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court of the United States are well underway. Hearings are broadcast live for the American people to see. Is it really direly necessary that we tune in?
Barrett was a strategic pick. President Donald J. Trump and his team picked her because she appears to be the Evangelical dream. A dedicated family woman with a large family. A through-and-through Catholic. A storied past working for or endorsing organizations that support the usual agenda of Evangelicals, i.e. outlaw and criminalization of same-sex marriage and associated rights, abortion, and the destruction of the separation of church and state. It’s important to go over the record of Judge Barrett because everyone has the capacity to change, how can one be certain that her confirmation to the Supreme Court will turn over a new leaf?
It should be noted that Barrett’s opinions written after court cases that have been litigated have primarily aligned with ideas of conservatives. However, this statement alone is misleading. Barrett has a habit of missing the forest for the trees. She often operates on pointing out procedural missteps and faulty semantics rather than the consequences incurred by rulings, which to be fair, is a common practice in law. Barret self-admittedly does not think that it is the court’s job to write the law, merely interpret it. This position is not inherently bad but in the case of human rights violations or voter disenfranchisement, this approach can often cause some dissatisfying results.
The religious elephant in the court room is her connection to the mysterious group People of Praise. In simple terms, this group is a cult. However, its official description is that of a “parachurch organization,” a religious group that stretches across traditional denominations. The group has faced increased scrutiny since Judge Barrett’s nomination and their questionable practices have come to light. There was a rumor going around that People of Praise was the basis for Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale,” but this was not true. It was based on a similar group, but it should be noted that the comparison is not without merit. Up until quite recently, the highest leadership position a woman could hold in People in Praise was called a “handmaid.” They’ve since changed the title to “woman leader,” which is not that much better but different nonetheless. The particularly unprogressive element of the group is they preach the idea that the husband is the head of the household, both an anti-feminist and heteronormative idea.
These factors are two facets of Barrett which threw up red flags for many people and organizations. As the hearings began, legislators on both sides of the aisle are doing something similar to Judge Barrett: missing the metaphorical forest for the metaphorical trees. In general, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee went through great pains to point out Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith as well as framing the hearings as perfectly reasonable to do in an election year, despite the criticisms and precedent about judicial nominations and confirmations in election years. Democrats used the majority of their time attempting to ask Barrett about policy and judicial ruling and precedent which Barrett on many occasions did not want to answer for fear of seeming partial to a potential future decision, which is a common practice among judges. However, both sides miss the point of the hearings.
The point of the hearing is to ferret out the ability of Amy Coney Barrett to carry out the law impartially but even that is in question because of her approach to interpretation. Barrett is an originalist/textualist in terms of the law, meaning she interprets the law through the intention of the original writers of the Constitution or the laws in question. To a largely progressive nation (most polls put the support for various progressive policies like universal healthcare or a raised minimum wage around 60 to 70-percent), this is a death knell. Ginsburg did not take the same approach. She vehemently believed that the U.S. Constitution should be a living document and that it should be adapted to the times it’s examined in.
This all says nothing of the precedent arguments among Republicans and Democrats about the hearings itself. Republicans generally obfuscate the point that four years ago, they denied former President Barack Obama a Supreme Court confirmation in an election year, which is the Senate’s right by the Constitution. That point is moot. The point to be focused on is that we are already in the middle of an election. The election is already happening. Early voting is process right now and people are already casting their vote. Confirming the Supreme Court nominee of a potentially ousted President when the option to wait until after the results is readily available is just disregarding the American people’s will. Saying nothing of Amy Coney Barrett’s skill as a jurist, the whole confirmation is tainted by disdain of the American people.