Eight days before the 2020 presidential election, Amy Coney Barrett places her hand on the bible and recites the oath that swears her in as a Supreme Court Justice of the United States. On televisions, phones and websites across the country, millions watch. Over a week later, Democrats celebrate in the streets for the election of 46th President Joe Biden. But the time has not come for champagne and flags. President Donald Trump has hurt American democracy in a fundamental way. And Amy Coney Barrett’s addition to the Supreme Court proves it.
Although Trump will be gone from office, his policies are not only going to exist, but will continue to be implemented. The addition of Justice Barrett means that the court is now a firm 6-3 conservative majority. This means that any legislation regarding immigration, gun regulation, racial discrimination and healthcare will most likely favor Republicans. Things like the Affordable Care Act could be repealed, and millions of Americans could lose healthcare. The momentous Roe v. Wade court decision that gave women the right to have an abortion is again up for debate, and while its core may not change, according to Justice Barrett’s talk at Jacksonville University, heavy restrictions could be placed on women’s abortion rights. But what does this really mean? These issues are all symptomatic of a much deeper problem.
Justice Barrett’s policies all lean far to the right of the average American. According to the Guardian, in Biegert v Molitor, Barrett sided with police who killed a mentally ill man after his mother called 911. In United States v Wilson, Barrett agreed that officers had reasonable suspicion to detain a black man because he had a “bulge in his pocket” and was in a “high crime area.” On immigration, she indicated that she would defer to the executive branch’s reasons for denying visas to lawful immigrants, and would not require the Trump administration to justify its decisions. Barrett worked as a law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, a strict conservative, and Barrett has stated that her judicial philosophy is nearly identical to that of Scalia. She has a relationship with Alliance Defending Freedom, a far-right legal advocacy group. The list goes on.
The Supreme Court is a governmental structure meant to be nonpartisan, independent of politics. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the 78th Federalist Paper that the judiciary branch of government should be outside of politics, deriving its authority from the same origin as the executive and legislative branches. However, Justice Barrett’s addition to the court makes the court hyper-partisan, when the court should be impartial.
Even her swearing-in ceremony was anything but nonpartisan. While most new Justices prefer to have their swearing-in ceremonies independent of the president, Justice Barrett’s was treated like a Presidential campaign event. Held not at the Supreme Court, but on the White House lawn, with President Trump at her side.
The nomination process itself was deeply partisan. According to NBC News, in choosing between a different nominee and Barrett, Trump spoke with evangelical leaders of anti-abortion rights groups, like Marjorie Dannendesler and Tony Perkins, who made it clear they wanted Barrett. Trump, who was down 18% in support from white evangelicals, chose Barrett.
Even further, Justice Barrett will be heavily influenced by ideology and religious views, all which benefit the right. She is a conservative Catholic, and said in a 1998 article in the Marquette Law Review, “[Catholic judges] are obliged by oath, professional commitment and the demands of citizenship to enforce the death penalty. They are also obliged to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.” She is a member of The People of Praise, which is a Catholic charismatic group that has a strict view of human sexuality. They support traditional gender roles, like the husband being the head of the family. According to the New York Times, her judicial opinions indicate broad support for the expanded role of religion in public life.
Upholding the law should be without regard to politics or religion. This partisan, right-leaning court that Trump has created means that she is another justice chosen by a president who did not win the popular vote. Her ideas reflect the minority of the population. This is not the democracy America was founded upon. Unless something changes, it is unquestionable that Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination signifies how damaged American democracy has become.