For nearly two years, I’ve made doomsday predictions about federal judge Amy Coney Barrett assuming Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Well, doomsday is here. Barrett’s name began circulating as a top contender for the lifetime job within hours of Ginsburg’s death on Friday. By Saturday afternoon, Trump said that his nominee would “most likely” be a woman.
Barrett is one of the 216 and counting Trump-appointed federal judges the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed to lifetime seats, many of which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held open through the Obama years. She fit into the new generation of overwhelmingly white, mostly male, extremely conservative, and comparatively young lifetime federal judges transforming the courts for the next generation. (Barrett is 48 years old.) Unlike Ginsburg, who spent 13 years as an appeals court judge before being elevated to the Supreme Court, Barrett — formerly a law professor — has been on the bench for less than three years.
Back in October 2018, I believed Trump might rescind Brett Kavanaugh’s embattled Supreme Court nomination and submit Barrett’s name to the Senate instead. The SCOTUS switcheroo would solve two problems: It would pacify conservatives who openly worried Kavanaugh didn’t adequately oppose abortion rights, and it would arm them with a false god they could wield against the Big Bad Feminists who protested Kavanugh’s confirmation in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations. Barrett represented the ultimate judicial gaslighting.
Three days before Kavanaugh’s 50-48 confirmation to a lifetime position on the highest court in the land, The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote an article about Trump and his supporters titled “The Cruelty Is the Point.” The cruelty is the point again now. Judge Barrett is everything Justice Ginsburg wasn’t. Trump wants us to hurt that much more.