When Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court in 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a whole bunch of Republicans successfully opposed the election year nomination. Now that President Trump faces the same objections from Democrats, he's singing an awfully different tune.
Trump announced Saturday that he is nominating Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last Friday after a long battle with cancer. As Blavity previously reported, Barrett was one of several figures shortlisted by Trump to replace Ginsburg. She was appointed as a federal judge on the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017 on Trump’s nomination. She was almost chosen for the Supreme Court by Trump in 2018 when Justice Anthony Kennedy retired according to The Washington Post. The Hill reports that when Trump chose to go with Brett Kavanaugh that time, the president indicated that he was “saving” Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat.
Barrett has repeatedly questioned the validity of the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, and President Trump has implied that the decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S. might be overturned with Barrett on the Court. Based on her originalist philosophy, Barrett once published an article arguing that Brown v. Board of Education was improperly decided. However, she’s also referred to the landmark anti-segregation ruling as a “super precedent” — one of a handful of cases so important that the Supreme Court would never overturn it. Finally, Barrett could help Trump to finally undo President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge to the law shortly after the election, and Barrett has publicly challenged past Supreme Court rulings that upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare.
Here's what you should know about the new nominee:
1. She was mentored by the late Justice Anton Scalia
Barrett clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, who served as one of the Court’s staunchest conservatives until his death in 2016 per CNBC. Like Scalia, Barrett interprets the constitution and laws based on the principles of textualism and originalism. Basically, she believes that a given law or constitutional clause should be interpreted based on how the language would have been understood at the time it was written. Nominating an originalist is satisfying for members of Trump's base who see 1789 as a period when America was “great.”
2. She seems to think the Supreme Court got Brown v. Board of Education wrong
Based on her originalist philosophy, Barrett once published an article arguing that Brown v. Board of Education was improperly decided. By contrast, Judge Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings referred to the case as "the single greatest moment in Supreme Court history," and the unanimous 1954 decision has generally been considered untouchable. Barrett herself has also referred to the landmark anti-segregation ruling as a “super precedent" — one of a handful of cases so important that the Supreme Court would never overturn it.
The latter statement has not reassured everyone that she is not a threat to the Brown ruling. On the same day that Trump formally announced Barrett’s nomination, Black Lives Matter
posted a call to action on its website urging supporters to oppose Barrett. The statement pointed to Barrett as a danger because “she’s anti-Brown v Board of Education — she openly and firmly believes that the Supreme Court case that desegregated our schools was wrongly decided.”
3. She's questioned some of the other most notable SCOTUS rulings
Barrett has repeatedly questioned the validity of the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, and President Trump has implied that the decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S. might be overturned with Barrett on the Court according to The Guardian. Barrett could help Trump to finally undo President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge to the law shortly after the election, and Barrett has publicly challenged past Supreme Court rulings that upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare.
4. She's an Evangelical Catholic whose faith has been raised as an issue on both sides
Barrett belongs to a mostly Catholic, Evangelical community known as People of Praise. She has made her faith a large part of her public identity and spoken about faith and the law more generally per The Associated Press. Republicans have been highlighting Barrett's religious identity and attempting to paint Democrats as hostile to Catholic values and candidates.
A big part of that case has rested on instances of Democratic senators questioning Catholic judges about the possible influence of their faith on their rulings in ways that Republicans say demonstrates Democrats’ intolerance of conservative religious views. Barrett herself was criticized for holding to Catholic “dogma” during her last confirmation hearing. Should Barrett’s faith become a major source of debate in this year’s confirmation process, it could play into Republicans’ hands by providing evidence of a Democratic or liberal bias against Catholics, pushing undecided Catholics into the Republican camp.
5. She has not gotten a pass for having Black family
Responding to a now deleted tweet that Barrett could not be labeled by Democrats as racist because two of her children are adopted from Haiti, Boston University professor (and the author’s colleague) Ibram X Kendi countered that some “White colonizers” adopt Black children while still supporting oppression.
Some White colonizers "adopted" Black children. They "civilized" these "savage" children in the "superior" ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity. https://t.co/XBE9rRnoqq
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 26, 2020
Professor Kendi, author of the bestselling book How to Be an Anti-Racist went on to clarify that he was not accusing Barrett of having this mentality, but was merely making the point that having Black children does not necessarily negate or disprove racial bias.
Judge Barrett's nomination is popular among President Trump's conservative and Evangelical supporters, and may help him win over some Catholic voters as well. But Barrett's ultra-conservative judicial philosophy and skepticism concerning some of the most impactful Supreme Court decisions in American history risk alienating Black voters and women of all races. And the potential that her confirmation may lead to millions of Americans losing healthcare during a global pandemic may prove to be unpopular with voters across demographics around the country.