Amy Coney Barrett: Why Trump’s likely Supreme Court pick stirs fears he is planning an assault on democracy
Amy Coney Barrett is widely expected to be announced as Donald Trump’s pick for the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court tonight.
She will bring change to the court and country, no doubt. Her nomination also brings a political outcry.
Assuming she is confirmed as filling the vacancy on the bench created by Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s death, she will tilt its political balance to the right – as one of six conservative justices versus three liberal.
At any time, it would have huge implications for the country’s highest court and how it shapes the lives of Americans. At no time, perhaps, like now – a month before the election.
The career record of the 48-year-old federal appellate judge demonstrates conservative credentials on contentious issues like gun control, immigration and access to medical care.
A devout Catholic, she is lauded by anti-abortionists for her pro-life convictions.
“The dogma lives loudly within you,” is a slogan famously associated with Ms Barrett.
The phrase was used during her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing to become a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.
It catapulted Ms Barrett to wider national prominence and stirred religious conservatives who viewed the episode as an example of anti-religion bias.
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There will be controversies to come. Ms Barrett will have a lifetime’s appointment to a right-wing bench with which to wield influence over generations who don’t necessarily share her politics or life choices.
Immediately, there is the matter of the election, its winner and loser. On this, Mr Trump‘s opponents sense he is scripting a stitch-up around his Supreme Court nominee.
The president has routinely branded postal votes a “scam” and “hoax”, without evidence.
Just last week, he predicted that uncertainty around the outcome would mean the election ending up in the Supreme Court and so a replacement 9th Justice would be needed “quickly”.
All the indications from the White House and Republican-controlled Senate suggest a scramble to confirm the new Justice before the US goes to the polls.
Democrats joining the dots scream that it presents the picture of a president who won’t accept a loss at the polls, but who would steer a legal challenge towards a conservative-leaning Supreme Court in the expectation it would declare him winner – whatever the democratic will of the American people.
All of this amid his refusal to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power after the election.
Senior Republicans offer reassurance that the president will indeed agree to an orderly, peaceful transfer of power if he loses in a “free and fair” election.
And yet it’s a qualification that doesn’t sit easily with Mr Trump’s framing of the election so far. He consistently undermines its legitimacy and has sought to sow distrust in the system, claiming the process is “rigged”.
On one view, the president is creating distraction to deflect from his performance on coronavirus – which has seen more than 200,000 US deaths, a tanking economy and opinion polls that consistently show him behind.
To that end, discussion about a new Supreme Court nominee can open up a new campaigning focus.
His Democratic opponents take a different view. They see his manoeuvring as nothing less than a full-scale autocratic assault on democracy, a battle plan crafted to keep him in office.
The question of where and when the battle ends is one that remains open. So does the matter of how, in a country darkly contemplating all possibilities.
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