John Colson: A few thoughts on Amy Barrett’s nomination
Hit & Run
I had other plans for this week’s column, having to do with calming voters’ fears about the chaotic nature of the 2020 election cycle, but that will have to wait.
That’s because President Donald Trump, as he so loves to do, shot off a cannonade of chaos that shook the walls of my political bunker over the weekend, by nominating an extremist evangelical jurist and despiser of the national Affordable Care Act, Amy Coney Barrett, to replace the recently deceased Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the nation’s highest court.
Trump and his acolytes have made it clear they plan to ram through Barrett’s confirmation by election day, Nov. 3, in order to have her seated on the court just in time to deal with any Supreme Court hanky-panky concerning what may be a very close election.
Remember the 2000 election, when The Supremes stopped a highly contentious ballot counting process in Florida and handed the White House to George W. Bush?
The justices did so despite the fact that his Democrat opponent, then-Vice President Al Gore, seemed to be gaining on Bush and might very well have won that state along with a majority of votes in the rest of the country (Gore ultimately garnered some 500,000 more votes than Bush nationwide).
Trump, as is now widely acknowledged, also lost the popular vote in 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton pulled in around 3 million more votes than Trump, but Trump won in the Electoral College. And he clearly expects to use the court to thwart the will of the voting public yet again by putting a radical right-wing, evangelical justice in place immediately, if not sooner.
In fact, the president and vice president have explicitly stated this to be their goal, in an obvious act of political sabotage aimed directly at the beating political heart of this nation.
We’ve all been hearing for days about how hypocritical this is on the part of Republicans, who famously refused to even hold a hearing for nearly a year on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, because they deemed it improper for Obama to name a new justice in his last year in office (this was eight or nine months before the election, not a mere 40 days or so and with voters in some areas already casting ballots.)
I should note that, according to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, only once in our nation’s history has a Supreme Court vacancy opened up only weeks before a presidential election, back when Republican Abraham Lincoln was president.
Lincoln, Klobuchar told NPR on Sept. 20, realized that there were only 29 days left before the election (in 1864), and decided he would wait before trying to fill that vacancy until after the election.
The Republican leadership now maintains that it is their right to confirm Barrett’s elevation to the court, because they are in the same party as the president — a blatant declaration of partisanship over any other consideration. The GOP is well aware that the voters are in a mood to change horses this year, and they want to rig the election in any way they can to stay in power.
I referred last week to the Republican power-play as an ongoing coup d’etat, and that assessment still holds.
Even if Trump loses by a wide margin, both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College, there are all sorts of signs that he will not relinquish the Oval Office without a fight, including his own statements to the media.
And while some of his party faithful have stepped back from endorsing these statements, and even have tried to assure voters there would be a “peaceful transition” if Democrat Joe Biden wins the election.
But by their cowardly behavior over the past three-and-a-half years, we know that these protestations mean nothing, and that if given half a chance they would line up behind Trump no matter what he does, as long as it keeps them in the driver’s seat.
There have been questions about whether Barrett should be expected to recuse herself from any presidential-election-related case (assuming she is confirmed, which seems certain), but how likely is that?
Barrett, herself, has offered no such solution, and Trump’s political lieutenants, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Attorney General Bill Barr, certainly would fight any such move with every resource they can muster.
I do not believe Barrett is qualified to be on the high court, in particular due to her links with the charismatic Christian People of Praise, which follows strict male-supremacy guidelines about marriage, as well as other antiquated gender-role doctrines that are viewed as extreme even by other Christian denominations.
The Guardian newspaper last week called the group “a secretive Catholic ‘covenant community’ … adhering to a ‘highly authoritarian structure,’” and noted that Barrett had once declared that a career in law should not to be viewed as a means of gaining satisfaction, prestige or money, but rather “as a means to the end of serving God.”
It would seem that, with Barrett on the high court, we might easily be taking one really big step toward turning the United States into a theocracy, and that alone should invalidate her as a nominee.
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It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.