One month out from the election, Joe Biden and Democrats sit in an advantageous position. Biden has led Donald Trump in the polls for months both nationally and even in North Carolina, a conservative-tilting swing state that previously voted for the president by 3.7%. The party still has one Achilles heel in the area of turnout. Because of his age and moderate profile, cosmopolitan liberals are lukewarm toward the former vice president. Amy Coney Barrett could change that.
As Rob Schofield detailed in NC Policy Watch, Barrett has a worldview that is deeply reactionary. On nearly every issue of constitutional jurisprudence, she takes positions far enough to the right that Schofield’s comparison of her to Clarence Thomas seems warranted. She has shown resolute opposition to abortion as well as the life-saving Affordable Care Act. And her contempt for stare decisis–the principle of deference to precedent that has guided the American judiciary for centuries–raises the probability that she will act on these views.
In short, she poses a threat to the policies and established civil rights that lie at the heart of modern Democratic liberalism. In no way is she a Trojan horse–a sort of David Souter in reverse, who appears one way but may rule in opposition to the party that nominated her. A long record of provocative academic writings establishes her radicalism. Even for causal followers of politics, it will be clear that this nominee poses the greatest risk to liberal priorities of any prospective justice sine Robert Bork.
Unlike Bork, Barrett will almost certainly be confirmed. In this case, the fight over her confirmation and the resulting outrage of her ascension to the High Court will activate latent liberal anxieties that have been festering since Trump was elected. Social progressives and young voters in places like Chapel Hill, Asheville and Pittsboro will be drawn to the polls to express their anger at the reality of Justice Barrett. There may not be many Biden yard signs in Orange County, but the voters are coming.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.