Amy Coney Barrett has not yet been confirmed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court by the U.S. Senate, but there is no question that her confirmation battle has gone much better than the one endured by Brett Kavanaugh and his supporters. The undervalued reason why is that Republicans and their voters are not wasting any time on dirty tricks from their opponents in the Senate and in the media.
This confirmation was supposed to be apocalyptic. That’s what I predicted. One of the closing paragraphs of “Justice On Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court,” the book I wrote with Carrie Severino:
As ugly as Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle became, he is unlikely to shift the Court dramatically. Except on abortion and homosexuality, Justice Kennedy usually voted with the conservatives. If Justice Ginsburg were to retire while Trump was in the White House, the resulting appointment would probably be like the Thomas-for-Marshall trade. Compared with what might follow, the Kavanaugh confirmation might look like the good old days of civility.
Clearly, we were wrong. There are many reasons for that, and it’s worth looking at them.
For one thing, the Democrats’ campaign messages regarding the global Coronavirus pandemic make it impossible to repeat their action tactics from the Kavanaugh hearings. While riots and mass protests are encouraged in the streets, there was no way to import paid activists to the committee hearings or to roam Senate hallways in costume. When the Kavanaugh hearings began, they were fueled by outbursts from Senators and their invited guests who disrupted the hearings. Hundreds of activists were arrested and bailed out of jail by a coordinated campaign focused on a theme of disruption. The Coronavirus made similar tactics impossible.
Contra the early media narrative, the timing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death didn’t help Democrats as much as they thought it would. If you remember, the main Democrat theme of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle was “delay, delay, delay.” They worked very hard to delay the opening of hearings by fighting to read the millions of papers that passed through Kavanaugh’s desk while he was staff secretary for President George W. Bush.
Battles over paperwork dominated July and August, with hundreds of articles written about the process fights. Chuck Schumer and his allies did a photo op in front of a few empty boxes that were described as “missing records.” Schumer imposed a Democrat boycott of meetings with Kavanaugh, only relenting after weeks of trying to delay the opening of the confirmation hearings.
If Democrats tried to delay the Kavanaugh hearings until past the mid-term elections, and came very close to succeeding, how much easier should it have been to delay Barrett’s confirmation vote until after the presidential election?
One of the reasons the delay strategy failed for Democrats last time is because American voters started getting sick to death of what they were doing to the man. Whereas in 2018 Democrats had a huge wave election that turned over the House of Representatives to Democrat control, they actually lost Senate seats. They had to stop their anti-Kavanaugh efforts lest they lose more.
Democrats were nervous about attacking Barrett in the way they’d tried to destroy Kavanaugh. Their energy and focus were on their own elections, too.
Also, Barrett is a nominee of incredible quality. Like Kavanaugh, she has a ton of very loyal friends who love to sing her praises. Considered the brightest of her peers, she was a popular law professor and has had a good three years as a federal judge.
But let’s not pretend that the left didn’t try to destroy Barrett. They did! They put the very same reporters who ran their anti-Kavanaugh hit pieces on the anti-Barrett beat. And they wrote many negative stories about her, her religion, and her family.
Before she was nominated, Newsweek erroneously accused her religious group of being the inspiration for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” A few days later, Politico ran an article arguing that her “religious beliefs aren’t off-limits” and saying they are problematic. Reuters also ran its own hit piece on the group People of Praise, headlined “Handmaid’s Tale? U.S. Supreme Court candidate’s religious community under scrutiny.”
The Washington Post had the reporter who ran the Christine Blasey Ford portion of their massive anti-Kavanaugh operation write up a hit piece on Barrett’s People of Praise group, headlined “Amy Coney Barrett served as a ‘handmaid’ in Christian group People of Praise.”
A few days later, a couple of reporters ran an utterly bizarre article about how a couple of kids at a school the Barrett children attend had gotten COVID. There was no evidence that the children gave the other children COVID and the Barrett children had tested negative. Beth Reinhard, one of the reporters on the story, defiantly tweeted that the White House had shamed her for writing about the children, as if it didn’t make her look bad.
The Post has been a reservoir of anti-Barrett hit articles. So has The New York Times. In addition to its hit on Barrett’s religious ties, the Times ran a deep and critical look at the adoptions of two Barrett children.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the rare step of condemning the article. “The nominee introducing her family in a few sentences of prepared remarks does not give the New York Times license to start treating minor children like objects of public curiosity,” he wrote. Adoption advocates were troubled by the attack on the family.
Just yesterday, the Associated Press ran a hit on a private religious school Barrett had been affiliated with. Rod Dreher wrote in response that the “Left Is Coming For Christian Schools.” And the left’s favorite academic and racist, Ibram X. Kendi, called Barrett and her husband “white colonizers” for having a multi-racial family.
So again, let’s not pretend that the left didn’t work through its most prominent media outlets and academics to try to destroy Barrett. They did. The biggest difference is that Republicans simply weren’t playing with these attacks. Each and every one of these stories — and dozens of similar ones — was met with swift condemnation or yawns. Every single one.
It took a few decades of the left playing the exact same games with most confirmation battles, but finally, the right figured out how to render those attacks worthless. It’s not just conservative Americans, but the senators themselves who are playing this differently.
Rather than the Senate Judiciary Committee immediately responding to the Washington Post’s anti-Kavanaugh attack by bending to the will of the Democrats, this time they just didn’t care. As Democrats openly said on national television that they would do anything to stop Barrett’s confirmation, rather than act scared, the Republicans were not moved. They haven’t responded with outrage or drama, but just a steely resolve to get the nomination done.
When Democrats said they would boycott the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting at which Barrett is to be voted on, the Republicans responded by saying it was fine. This way, she’ll be the unanimous vote of the committee.
The legacy of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle is that Republicans finally figured out to stop playing along with the left’s games, in which nominees see their lives, family, and reputation on the chopping block. It took them a while, but better late than never.