America has watched this battle for control of the Supreme Court for at least the last decade. Every time someone said that the court was in play for Republicans, that they wanted to own the Supreme Court, people with plenty of chops and oodles of historical political perspective disagreed. The Court is not political they would say. Americas have always revered the Supreme Court, although not always the decisions of the high court. We used to at least want to feel that our Supremes were above politics.
However, a number of things have happened to disabuse us of that notion. The confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas with the disrespectful treatment of Anita Hill reminded women that men were firmly in charge. Clarence Thomas’s hearing was contentious and a preview of the incivility in store in our politics. After that things evened out a bit with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan proving that the rabid movement to turn the court to the right was not yet in full swing. The problem the GOP had was that the full pathway designed to keep a minority party in power had not been finalized. Citizens United (2010) gave away the game. Corporations (like those owned by the Koch brothers) could contribute unlimited money to election candidates without revealing the source of the money. Huge win for Republicans. The drumbeat to move the Court to the right got stronger. In 2016 McConnell blocked Obama’s nomination of Merrick Gardner. But Obama was a popular president and he had added two women to the court during his two terms, both leaning left, but not extreme.
Republicans appear to have gotten desperate since Trump was elected. They know that they are a minority party. They have resorted to tactics that are less than savory and that walk all over Constitutional lines. The Court overturned the preclearance section of the voting rights act. This has allowed many creative attempts to suppress Democratic voters, a clear violation of the intent of the voting rights act as many Democratic voters are African American. These actions have echoed the strategies white slaveowners used on freed slaves to prevent them from voting – poll taxes, making polling places scarce for black folks – requiring literacy tests, except now they tried to require voter ID’s and not allow students to vote from college, and vet fewer, harder to reach polling places, thus stirring up racial tensions. Now Republicans have moved on, with the help of Trump, to undermining the US Mail, inviting Trump fans (including militia members) to become ersatz “poll watchers,” and demonizing mail-in voting.
So, when the Republicans decided to fill the seat on the Supreme Court with a haste that bordered on disrespect for longtime, well-loved Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only 30 days out from an election, they suddenly and brazenly decided to not only nominate a new justice but approve her. They grinned and did this even after telling Obama that they would not put his nominee, Merrick Garland through the system because March was too close to the election in November of 2016. They have held on to the US Senate for way to long. It has given them a ridiculous sense of entitlement and they enjoy flaunting their power. For the most part they have used their power to block everything except stuffing the courts with Conservatives. And they are thrilled with themselves and crowing. They obviously don’t feel that they have had too much winning.
So that brings us to the hearings this week on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Another woman on the Supreme Court should make women feel like celebrating. But, although she won’t tell us anything about how she will rule on any topic, we can read her body language, we can read the difference between the way she responds when Democrats are interviewing her and when Republicans are apologizing for the way Democrats are interviewing her, and when Republicans are heaping praise on her ability to raise seven children and practice law as a law clerk for Justice Alito and then as a judge (for only 3 years). She makes Republican (and Evangelical) men sigh, so brilliant, so submissive, so much the antithesis of feminism. But, we women who do not wish to move backwards in time, are not convinced that she will be an advocate of the rights of women, which now need to support working women. (She actually seems a bit creepy.)
What led me to say creepy? Barrett refused to answer questions about the Constitution and implied that the entire document was open to interpretation by the Court. To her, nothing counted as settled law except Marbury v Madison and Brown v The Board of Education.
Ever since the pill, and Roe v Wade, women have understood that there was strong opposition and that it was based in religion. We wanted to feel that our hard-won rights, along with that boost from science, were safe, because our nation is supposed to keep religion out of our government, but the opposition has grown more and more powerful. Peaceful protest wouldn’t suffice. Even more violent, terrorizing behaviors did not suffice. Republicans and Evangelicals began to believe that the only way to make America a “moral” nation according to their apprehension of morality, was to organize a coup. And in case they lost the Presidency they would have at least accomplished a coup in the courts where judges have lifetime appointments.
We saw the proliferation of think tanks, institutes, committees, organized into a web of wealthy Americans who agreed with the Koch brothers. We saw the bonding of Catholics and Evangelicals. We saw the push to put prayer back in schools, to post the 10 Commandments in the halls of government, and to teach Creationism instead of evolution. Trump made promises to Evangelicals and he intends to keep them, not because he is a believer, but because he believes helping fill that seat on the court with a Conservative will keep him in office if the election is close enough to be referred to the courts as we saw in Bush v Gore. He thinks that the fix is in and that even if he loses the popular vote he will win the electoral college. Amy Coney Barrett, at the top of the list from the right-wing Federalist Society, is his backup plan. But after watching her careful responses, which offered little or no verbal information but plenty of nonverbal clues, the practically inevitable confirmation of Amy to the Supreme Court is deeply depressing if you are a woman in America, or indeed, if you use the ACA for your health care. If we don’t win this election in 2020 America disappears from the world stage and becomes something that seemed obsolete. America becomes a theocratic autocracy. Men continue to exercise dominance and the glass ceiling turns into another wall.
In case you think this is based on old information you need to read the article from The Washington Post with video from reporters who were in the room where it happened:
Paul Krugman on this subject in NYT 10.16.2020: