Frantic efforts in the Senate are underway to install far right appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. After a short search period, Donald Trump announced Barrett’s nomination in a speech at the White House on Saturday. Trump touted her commitment to “our religious liberty, our public safety” and noted “Law and order is the foundation of the American system of justice” — clear allusions to the right wing agenda he expects Barrett to pursue if confirmed.
Republicans in the Senate are now racing to organize public hearings and ultimately a confirmation vote ahead of potentially major rulings by the court in November. With Senator Mitt Romney’s announcement that he supports confirming a new Justice right away, it appears that a majority exists to install Barrett on the Supreme Court. Senate Democrats, led by Wall Street favorite Chuck Schumer, have developed little in the way of a concrete plan to prevent Barrett’s confirmation.
Basic rights in jeopardy
Commenting to Liberation News, civil rights attorney Julie Hurwitz said she believed “once Barrett is confirmed as the youngest and reliably right-wing Justice to the Supreme Court, we will have little or no recourse through our current federal court system to seek or obtain justice or democracy in our society unless the structure of our Supreme Court is altered,” referring to growing calls to increase the number of judges on the court.
Hurwitz added that Barrett “historically rules in favor of rights of the wealthy and powerful and corporations over the rights of all” and is “adamantly anti-choice” on the issue of abortion rights. Women’s rights organizations across the country are expressing alarm that Barrett could overturn Roe v. Wade and recriminalize abortion.
Barrett is a member of a right wing Christian fundamentalist sect called People of Praise and spoke repeatedly to legal seminars organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a mainstay of the religious right which in addition to being anti-choice promotes virulent anti-LGBTQ hatred. She was mentored by former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who was reviled for his anti-choice and all-around archconservative positions.
One of Barrett’s first rulings may be to eliminate healthcare rights for millions of people by shredding the Affordable Care Act. While the ACA leaves the for-profit healthcare system intact, it did have the effect of extending some type of insurance coverage to millions of people and banning discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. On November 10, the Supreme Court will hear the case California v. Texas that rests on the contention that the ACA is unconstitutional. Barrett wrote an essay in 2017 criticizing the 2012 ruling NFIB v. Sebelius that upheld the ACA’s constitutionality.
Barrett’s nomination also comes as expectations mount that the Supreme Court will be called on to effectively determine who the next president will be, as was the case in the 2000 election. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, both Democrats and Republicans are preparing for an unprecedented wave of legal challenges related to voting and vote counting, especially when it comes to voting by mail. Trump is clearly signalling that he will contest the legitimacy of the results if he does not win and claim that massive fraud occurred in the submission and tallying of mail-in ballots.
We need a new system
Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court would lock in a 6-3 right wing majority, meaning that even if one of the right wing judges defected to join the liberal Justices then it would still not be enough to block a ruling favored by conservatives. But beyond its present composition, the very nature of the Supreme Court makes a mockery of democracy.
Nine unelected judges who are appointed for life have unlimited power to reshape the laws of the country. This is not by accident. The “founding fathers” of the country wrote constantly about their fear that their new system of government could unleash “the tyranny of the majority”– meaning that the lower classes would use their democratic rights to vote away the wealth and power of the elite. The Supreme Court as an institution was conceptualized as a way to prevent such a scenario from coming to pass.
It appears likely that the ultra right will be able to lock in a majority on the Supreme Court for a generation. It would be an absurdity to wait patiently for decades as the people’s basic rights are taken away. History shows that when the system blocks progress at every turn, people will rise up and replace that system.