President Trump introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday as his nominee to the Supreme Court, calling her “one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds.” And while that may be true, now – with just five weeks before a national election in which the president could be denied a second term and control of the Senate could flip to the Democrats – is no time to be filling a vacancy on the high court.
Certainly, elections have consequences as the Democrats were reminded when the president made good on his word to appoint conservative jurists to the bench. Trump’s appointment and the Senate’s approval of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh solidified the philosophical bearing of the court on the right. If Barrett, who subscribes to the same kind of conservative judicial philosophy as her onetime mentor Justice Antonin Scalia, were to be seated, she would be taking the seat formerly occupied by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. The bench would then tilt dramatically to the hard philosophical right with a 6-3 majority.
Certainly, that is not where our country is philosophically.
Barrett, a judge on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has attracted praise from social conservatives for her religious faith as well as her strict interpretation of the Constitution. On the federal bench, where she has served two years, she has issued conservative decisions in cases involving immigration and the Second Amendment. But her views on abortion are likely to get the most attention during her confirmation process – especially during an election year.
For the record as to where the country is on the issue, Gallup polling in May showed 50 percent of those polled believe abortions should be legal under certain conditions with another 29 percent of those polled believing abortions should be legal under any condition.
The same poll found 20 percent of those polled oppose abortions under any circumstance.
Beyond a review of her judicial rulings as a judge, there is much personally to like about Barrett. She is, in her own words, “a room parent, car pool driver and birthday party planner” who adopted two children from Haiti and in recent months has had to learn the hurdles to online education just like so many other parents during the coronavirus pandemic that has closed schools.
But this is not about her. It is about a nation that is looking for new leadership in the White House and legislatively, a country leaning toward electing a new president. Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, leads in a vast majority of the polling – nationally and in swing states.
Likewise, the Republicans’ hold on power in the Senate – again, based on recent polling – is tenuous at best.
Given the rancor that currently infests the political beehive in D.C. and across the nation, it would not be healthy for our democracy if a lame duck president and an outgoing Senate were responsible for putting its heavy thumbs on the scales of justice.
To confirm Barrett – or any nominee, for that matter – before the Nov. 3 election would require a 38-day dash through a process that, in modern history, has typically taken twice as long.
Besides, polls show that most Americans say that the winner of the Nov. 3 election should fill the seat rather than President Trump rushing through an appointment before then.
Quite simply, an appointment of this magnitude must be made by the president inaugurated in January and then confirmed by the new Senate – whoever they may be.
Elections do have consequences. And the one that is underway with early voting should have the final and deciding voice.
Besides, if we waited nine months in 2016 as we did for an election to determine who would make the appointment, we can wait five weeks for this one.