Oct. 13, 2020
Those who oppose President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court understand that Trump is basically starting on third base. She was confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals only three years ago, which means she was recently vetted and most of the Republicans have already voted to confirm her. Even Mitt Romney seems amiable. If Trump didn’t have the votes to confirm quickly, he wouldn’t have nominated her.
Furthermore, there’s a political risk in opposing her as aggressively as they might want. Mrs. Barrett is about to be the most famous soccer mom in America, and if they treat her the way they treated Brett Kavanaugh, that won’t be received well. They may not want to give Trump the chance to run to the defense of America’s most famous soccer mom. But the benefits of decency might be outweighed by the need for outrage. They might give Barrett the Kavanaugh treatment regardless of how it looks because their base may insist on it.
The base of the Democratic Party is very, very angry. They want to see their rage reflected in those they sent to Washington, D.C. If the Senate simply acknowledges that Barrett has the votes and decides to take the high road, that could be interpreted as weakness and an unwillingness to fight. So the dilemma for Senate Democrats is this: do we repeat the Kavanaugh spectacle and risk alienating suburban women, or do we act like adults and risk alienating our base?
Whatever degree of outrage we see, it is not artificial. Despite the politics, they aren’t pretending to be angry and it isn’t a game. They’re genuinely upset.
They’re upset about abortion. Whatever accusations may surface about the puppies she has tortured and the secret racism her adoption of black kids is clearly trying to hide, they aren’t really worried about puppies and racism. They’re terrified that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Roe v. Wade is to the Left what John 3:16 is to Christians; it’s the promise that no matter what happens in life, it’s not a permanent problem. The prospect of losing Roe is more than simply a difference in policy.
But that’s not all. They are also concerned that well into the future, people will be able to do and say things they object to. They are concerned that bakers and florists who prefer not to decorate for same-sex weddings will retain the freedom to choose. They are also concerned that Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United will allow people to say things they dislike without restrictions. The world they envision is “tolerant,” but they can’t create a “tolerant” world if people are allowed to do and say things they view as “intolerant.” If people retain the freedom to do and say things they dislike, the world they long to see can’t be realized. That world requires them to control the Supreme Court so that the First Amendment protects only the freedom of worship—not the freedom of religion—and only sometimes guarantees the freedom of speech, but definitely not when it’s “hate speech.”
But there’s a final point as well that makes the appointment of a young, devout Catholic “originalist” especially galling. It is foreseeable that Amy Coney Barrett would be on the Supreme Court for 30 years or more. This is troubling because many on the Left sincerely believe that people like her are on the verge of extinction. In their world, religious conservatives are a small and dwindling minority who will simply disappear with the passage of time.
When they sing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” they actually imagine it. They see growing secularization as proof that Lennon’s world with no countries, no wars, and no religions is just around the corner. In that world, everyone will be happy. In that world, people like Amy Coney Barrett are on the ash heap of history, not on the Supreme Court. Barrett isn’t just a Supreme Court nominee with a different judicial philosophy, she represents a renewal of ideas that the Left wants to believe are on the verge of extinction.
Politically, they understand that this nomination is likely to be confirmed, but they will not go quietly into that good night, because Amy Coney Barrett represents a value system they believe is the source of all wars, bigotry, and substance abuse issues in the LGBT community. They believe she will cause careers to be ruined by unwanted pregnancies and deaths from back-alley abortions. They believe it is a matter of life and death—that’s why they will act like it’s a matter of life and death.