The U.S. Senate’s constitutional responsibilities to offer advice and consent on those nominated to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court has drifted from a staid (and almost boring) job interview to a political food fight of epic proportions. We’ve seen this play out from Bork to Thomas to Kavanaugh.
There are few times in recent political history where the temperature of our civic rhetoric has ever been so hot. While we wish it wasn’t so, we must anticipate that the confirmation hearings to fill the seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will likely grow uglier in tone.
Fortunately, Judge Amy Coney Barrett has proven that she can stand up to public scrutiny. Indeed, Judge Barrett has successfully run the gauntlet of Senate confirmation once already. No prospective judge in the last decade, apart from now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has faced the vicious and personal opposition that Judge Barrett was confronted with in 2017 during the confirmation hearings for her seat on the Seventh Circuit. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s notorious, veiled comment toward Amy Coney Barrett Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you” and “that’s of concern” stood out as a dog whistle—as close to an unconstitutional “religious test” of a public servant as a Senator can come. That was just the tip of the iceberg of the anti-religious bigotry that Judge Barrett was subjected to during those hearings.
Judge Barrett is a woman of serious conviction. And that’s a virtue that she shares with countless millions of Americans.
But I see the challenges Judge Barrett faced during her Circuit Court confirmation as an advantage. Judge Barrett has already been so scrutinized by those poised to oppose her nomination today that very little new information that could complicate her investiture seems likely to emerge. All Americans of good faith should hope that the most malicious attacks against Judge Barrett have already been tried and that the tone of our public debates over the Supreme Court will only grow healthier.
Amy Coney Barrett is living the life that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for women to have the right to live. Judge Barrett is the living embodiment of the new American ideal of meritocratic excellence without having to sacrifice one’s faith and family life. Judge Barrett is a new icon for millions of American women with the implicit affirmation, “You can do this.”