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Fri Oct 30, 2020, 02:10 PM

Amy Coney Barrett and the Real Threat of Minority Party Rule

With a primetime campaign rally on the South Lawn of the White House, Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in on Monday by Justice Clarence Thomas as the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, a third of which has now been nominated by Donald Trump. Barrett’s elevation one week before the end of the presidential election, as millions are already voting, marks the culmination of a messy, 50-year Republican crusade to cement an archconservative majority on the nation’s highest court—where Republicans have now placed 14 of the last 19 appointees.

Since judicial politics is now politics all the way down, the Trump campaign wasted no time in cutting video from the swearing-in to boost the president’s re-election chances. The Thomas-Barrett pairing carried its own significance because each justice, more by dint of political luck than anything else, got to replace a liberal giant on the bench: one took the seat of Thurgood Marshall, the architect of racial equality under law, and the other Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who did the same for women’s equality before becoming a judge. That each replacement was confirmed by the same low margin, 52 to 48, suggests how history will remember their rise.

This Trump-led spectacle was a fitting end to a mad rush to confirm Barrett that began with a coronavirus superspreader event in the Rose Garden, after which Trump and many others ended up infected—followed by a deliberate, though hypocritical, confirmation process in which Republicans offered the nominee all the courtesies they denied Merrick Garland in 2016. By one count, the 52 Republican senators who supported Barrett represent 13 million fewer people than the 48 Democrats and independents who opposed her, laying bare the Senate’s deep unrepresentativeness.

The Senate, as it happens, stands adjourned until after the election—installing Barrett, by all accounts, was more important to Republicans than economic coronavirus relief for Americans in need. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and ringleader of the Barrett battering ram, more or less gave away the game when he conceded this past weekend how unpopular his own legislative vision—or lack of it—is. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.” In a victory-lap interview with The New York Times, the Kentucky senator added that reshaping the courts was his crowning achievement. “I’m proud of it, and I feel good about it,” McConnell gloated.

https://www.gq.com/story/welcome-supreme-court-justice-amy-coney-barrett

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