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A Breath of Fresh Air

October 15, 2020 (532 words)

Amy Coney-Barrett was said to have “sparred” with Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, during the two days they spent questioning her nomination to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. But that sort of thing is fairly commonplace and hardly worth a mention.

Much more revealing was Ms. Barrett’s good-natured laughter, which she was not shy about sharing during the proceedings. Our hard-nosed, adversarial political scrum would certainly benefit from a regular dose of her genial disposition and plain-spokenness. Too bad she is headed for the Supreme Court, where we will essentially never hear from her again.

(Having a few sentences of some future legal opinion quoted in the press doesn’t really count. Nor will the odd speech before a select audience of enamored supporters.)

Another take-away is just how fractured we are as a people. The committee’s Democrat Senators took the occasion of these hearings to methodically cite every social ill that currently befalls us. As if they were laying blame at the nominee’s feet and demanding, “What do you intend to do about this?”

Their Republican counterparts calmly refuted all charges by referencing Coney-Barrett’s stellar record as a legal scholar and practicing jurist. They also found time to comment favorably on her remarkable personal life as a wife and mother of seven. To hear them tell it, elevating an “originalist” to the high court is just what the country needs at this time.

It all made for some rather predictable theater. Republicans came across as composed and statesman-like, while Democrats came off as, well, kind of “whiny.”

If you find yourself agreeing with my assessment, consider this: Republicans are happy with the way things are. And persistent rumors of social injustice don’t make a dent in their equilibrium. They are convinced any lingering hardship exists only on the periphery. In their minds eradicating the last vestige of inequity is a simple matter of doubling-down on what they are already doing: Spreading the gospel of individual liberty and personal accountability and economic freedom to the far reaches of the population, so all may receive the good news of salvation.

Democrats, meanwhile, are stuck playing catch up. They have been outflanked and left behind by their more prosperous neighbors. They are frantically waving their arms, metaphorically-speaking, and crying out: “it’s not working according to plan, folks, we need a major course correction.”

Republicans believe ensuring the individual good will eventually result in a noticeable improvement of the common good. Democrats have grown tired of waiting for that long-rumored rising tide to come along and lift the fortunes of the rank-and-file – to say nothing of the dispossessed.

One may not agree with every policy initiative Democrats put forth to balance the scales. I certainly don’t. And one may be appalled at the way they have gone off the rails regarding sexual mores, in their own, misguided celebration of “liberty.”

But these legitimate complaints about certain aspects of the Democrats’ approach do not absolve our good friends the Republicans, who still need to be awakened from their self-satisfied slumber. That’s what I was reminded of when listening to a few choice snippets of Amy Coney-Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
October 15, 2020

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