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A Handmaid’s Hearing: Can Democrats Bork Amy Coney Barrett?

The U.S. Senate's examination of President Trump's third Supreme Court pick begins today.

Will it be Justice Barrett? Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court begins on Columbus Day in the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee. We can expect four days of an attempt to convince the public that she is, alternately, a straight-laced appeals court judge and a radical religious zealot. Unless Barrett goes off-script, or something truly new and scandalous emerges, the Republicans’ 53 seat majority in the Senate should result in her appointment.

Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women

As a viewer’s guide, it’s safe to assume that any senator’s first goal is to elevate themselves – and this goes for members of both parties. The election looms, however, making Democrats’ jobs during the hearings a good bit more complicated. Catholic women in the battleground states are said to be the most precious commodity this cycle. This means committee Democrats need to denigrate Judge Barrett’s views, but not Catholics generally, or women who see themselves in her may turn away from the messaging, or worse, from Biden, if it gets really bad.

We can expect committee Democrats to try to paint Barrett as an extremist Catholic, much different from those battleground state voters. Ordinarily, Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee – especially those who don’t need their support in the polls – may not care about upsetting Catholics. There is an extra special circumstance in these hearings, however. Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris sits on the committee, and her questions and responses will be amplified louder than any other senator’s, in any other hearing.

Holy See

Harris didn’t need to court undecided Catholics two years ago for Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Her mocking tone of condescension shaded with open hostility for Kavanaugh will likely be dialed back significantly for this hearing. Harris and her fellow party members do still need to attack somewhere culturally. Judge Coney Barrett has made this easier with her membership in People of Praise, a largely Catholic group, which according to their site, blends Catholic and Pentecostal worship. They also used the term “handmaid” to refer to some members’ roles in the organization.

If you’re not politically aware, that term means simply – as Merriam-Webster says – “a personal maid or female servant.” But for the woke – well now, it would be like a group of largely white men referring to themselves as a Klan. Handmaids to them are lesser-status women used as broodmares for the privileged, as told in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. That book is now a central part of the feminist canon. What is the tie-in for Coney Barrett? None at all, except the opportunity to tarnish one with the whiff of the other.

How could that work? Ted Kennedy did far more with far less when he successfully convinced enough Americans that Judge Robert Bork was an anti-women’s rights extremist and someone comfortable with vile racism. No matter that it was all lies – Kennedy won that battle because he altered the perception of Bork. No matter that Kennedy was sexually assaulting cocktail waitresses on Capitol Hill at the time – he was successfully sold by the legacy media as a women’s rights champion and wore the mantle as well as any hypocrite.

Perhaps Coney Barrett will likely fare much better than Bork because she is a woman. For her part, we can expect the judge to follow the guidance of the justice she was nominated to replace: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The late justice simply refused to answer substantive questions about constitutional law during her confirmation. The hearings are scheduled to conclude on Thursday, October 15, and if all goes as Republicans hope, Judge Coney Barrett will be confirmed by the Senate before election day.


Read more from Scott D. Cosenza. 

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