Slimantics: Barrett confirmation hearing is a spectacle I'm not watching


Slim Smith



On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearing on a Supreme Court nomination that may fundamentally change the American landscape like no other.


I don't intend to watch any of the hearings, though, for the same reason I've never understood the appeal of pro wrestling.


Thirty years ago, when I was the sports editor of the Biloxi newspaper, a local wrestling promoter called to complain about the paper not running the results of his Saturday night wrestling events.



Although I was extremely dubious about the news value of wrestling, I offered a more diplomatic explanation. His wrestling cards often didn't end until close to midnight, far past the newspaper's deadlines, I explained. I told him to get the results in the paper on Sunday, he'd have to get the results to us earlier.


"OK, " he said. "Is Thursday early enough?"


That's pretty much my attitude about the confirmation hearings being held for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Like pro wrestling, it's going to be a spectacular show. Also like wrestling, the outcome has already been decided.


It's almost always been that way, of course. Since the high court was established only 2 percent of the nominees have been rejected, the most recent being Robert Bork, who was rejected by a 58-42 margin in 1987.


Back then, Bork was rejected for his perceived willingness to roll back the court's civil rights rulings of the two previous courts.


This time, it's even more unlikely that the Senate will reject the nomination.


In many respects, the Barrett nomination is the holy grail of Republican politics for the past 40 years. Nothing on earth will prevent her confirmation along party lines.


Barrett's position on abortion could not be more clear. That's the primary reason she was nominated even though she's one of the least experienced nominees to ever be nominated, with just three years as a practicing attorney and less than two years as a judge.


It should be noted that Supreme Court justices, once appointed, can act with a surprising degree of independence. Nominees once thought to be reliably conservative, have turned out to be far more liberal than expected. The opposite has held true on occasions as well.


But that seems unlikely in Barrett's case. She will be as good (or bad) as advertised.


So what does that mean on the abortion issue?


Perhaps not what you think.


The central argument against legal abortion in 1973 wasn't a moral question. It wasn't a matter of whether abortion was "murder," a characterization that didn't come along even among the most ardent of abortion opponents until the 1980s.


No, the anti-abortion argument rested on a question that has roiled the courts for almost 200 years - state's rights.


In 1973, opponents to abortion held the position that states had the right to determine the legality of abortion. In a 7-2 decision, the court rejected that argument.


If Barrett is confirmed, conservatives will have the impregnable (pardon the pun) majority required to overturn Roe v. Wade, although it will be interesting to see what precedent it leans on to do it.


So, if a Barrett court does overturn Roe v. Wade, it likely won't mean the end of abortion everywhere. Individual states will make that determination. Some states will provide legal access to abortion. Others won't.


The issue wasn't settled in 1973.


It won't be settled in 2021 or soon thereafter, either.


Nationally, Americans are evenly divided on abortion. No one's views are likely to be altered by the Supreme Court's ruling.


Strategically, conservatives may come to regret getting what they've asked for. Abortion has always been a central part of its strategy. Without that issue, they may lose one reliable issue needed to build a winning base.


History has proven that rights, once granted, are almost impossible to take away.


Access to legal abortion isn't likely to be any different.



Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]


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