Amy Coney Barrett’s Silence Speaks Volumes

Ethan Rotondi, President of Political Science Academy

Currently, the United States Senate is undergoing its “standard” procedure of holding hearings for the potential new Supreme Court Justice, who will replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death nearly a month ago.

Justice Ginsburg was a champion, not only of women’s rights, but also of human rights. As the Court’s second female justice and first ever Jewish justice, she fought against gender discrimination and for women’s equality, especially a women’s right to choose what she does with her own body.

She was a hero and she fought till the end to preserve American democracy and the rights of the people.

With her memory in heart and mind, keep hold of another truth.

Nothing about this hearing is “standard”.

It comes in the middle of a pandemic, less than a month out from a presidential election, after a summer of civil rights protests, and while millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to put food on the table or pay rent.

The country is nearing a breaking point.

Despite Congress’ struggling to pass another COVID relief bill (whether that is due to the stubbornness of Nancy Pelosi or the president is up for debate), they are able to force a Supreme Court candidate through a confirmation hearing.

While Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, was blocked for the better part of a year after Republicans argued against replacement of the late Justice Antonine Scalia during an election year; they will move to push Barrett through in less than thirty days.

This has to happen in order for her to be on the bench for a case the Court will hear regarding the Affordable Care Act on November 10.

This sentiment was repeatedly echoed by the likes of Senators Amy Klobuchar and Sheldon Whitehouse from Minnesota and Rhode Island respectively. Yet, the hearings went on and Senate Republicans praised Judge Barrett for her impressive resume as a revered law professor and federal justice on the 7th circuit court.

Democrats acknowledged her accomplishments but went forth with their duty to scrutinize the candidate and question her as they saw fit. It was all they could do given their minority status.

For the most part, Democrats stayed away from questioning Barrett’s Catholic faith. Instead, taking an undoubtedly smarter, more policy centered approach: focusing on Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act and whether or not the judge would vote to overturn either of these previous decisions.

Barrett declined to answer such questions often citing the so-called “Ginsburg rule,” the idea made popular by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan that argues that judges should not comment on cases that have come before them, or cases they could have chances of hearing once they take the bench.

While frustrating, abstaining to comment on such rulings or potential rulings is not inherently wrong or cause for alarm. However, what was alarming was the judge’s refusal to answer many questions regarding American civil liberties and what comes down to legal, scientific fact, or even common sense to most people.

When asked whether or not voter intimidation at the polls was illegal under federal law, the judge declined to give an answer regarding “hypotheticals.” As Senator Klobuchar pointed out after, voter intimidation is in fact illegal under U.S. law.

Judge Barrett would not comment on whether or not the president could delay the election, or on if they could refuse a peaceful transition of power in the event of a loss they disagreed with. When questioned about her belief in the existence of climate change by Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, Judge Barrett refused to answer such a “contentious” topic.

All of these silences speak volumes even if the judge will not.

Sadly, the most promising articulation from Judge Barrett came when she said that she was not simply a clone of her mentor Justice Scalia and would have more integrity than to be a pawn for the Trump presidency. Words that under normal circumstances would have been assumed have become the argument for the judge’s nomination. However, given the statements, or lack thereof, from Barrett in the earlier proceedings, it was refreshing to hear.

Finally, it is crucially important to recognize what is really going on. The Republican Senate has repeatedly failed to strike down the Affordable Care Act (or at least pieces of it) in the legislature since the act came to fruition.

Now, they are changing tactics and attempting to strike down the legislation through the court, side-stepping Congress, the people’s elected officials for someone their party will inevitably add to an already conservative court. Not to mention that Barrett is only 48 years old and will undoubtedly influence the Supreme Court and the nation for decades to come.

This is an egregious and blatant violation of the American people’s rights and manipulation while there are more pressing matters at hand.

However, the American people have too much to worry about without Barrett and even more with her.

Unfortunately, the majority of the country does not have the ability to be concerned with the Supreme Court; they have to worry about feeding their children and helping them through remote learning at home during the worst public health crisis in the last century.