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Corona del Mar High School

Opinion: What the Barrett confirmation hearings can teach us about human nature

Recently, Senator Amy Klobuchar made headlines when she called the Barrett Confirmation Hearings a sham.

“I think this hearing is a sham,” Senator Klobuchar said in her opening statement. “I think it shows real messed-up priorities from the Republican Party. But I am here to do my job. To tell the truth. To all Americans… let me tell you a political secret. I doubt that it will be a brilliant cross-examination that’s going to change this judge’s trajectory this week. No. It is you.”

Klobuchar is not wrong.

In rushing Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s hearings and confirmation, Senate Republicans have gone back on the word they gave in 2016, when Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to give Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a hearing so close to the election. In 2016, McConnell said to “let the American people decide.” Clearly, he has since reversed this trajectory.

But hypocrisy doesn’t just apply to Mitch McConnell and it doesn’t just apply to the Republican Party. Hypocrisy is a human failing, and no one is exempt.

In the year 1800, Thomas Jefferson won the presidential election in what was later called the “Revolution of 1800,” because it set the precedent for a peaceful transfer of power between two presidents from different political parties (John Adams was a Federalist; Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican.)

On the last night of his presidency, Adams famously appointed several Federalist “midnight judges,” in the hopes that they would carry out Federalist policies even if the president was no longer a Federalist. Jefferson and secretary of state James Madison, also a Republican, had the judicial commissions withheld, even though, technically, Adams was still the president and thus still had the power to appoint judges.

Technically, it was illegal of Jefferson to do so. This led to the Marbury v. Madison case, which later led to the establishment of judicial review, a process was key in defining the purpose of the Supreme Court.

It seems that even Thomas Jefferson, who was a Founding Father that wrote the Declaration of Independence, served as our third president and orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase, had his moments of hypocrisy too. But without Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court may not be what it is today.

During the opening statements of the Barrett Confirmation Hearings, Idaho senator Mike Crapo pointed out that “[there has been a vacancy] in a presidential election year 29 times. Every single one of those 29 times, the sitting President made a nomination to replace the vacancy…by contrast, of the 10 times in which the Senate was controlled by the opposite party [to the President], only one time the Senate proceeded to fill that vacancy. In fact, variances under a divided government have not been filled for over 130 years, going back to 1888.”

This doesn’t change the fact that Senate Republicans are, in fact, being very hypocritical. But it does put their hypocrisy into perspective. Right now, the GOP holds more power in the government, and they are using that power to solidify a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

But can we blame them for wanting to push an agenda that they believe in? Can we say for certain that, if the roles were reversed, the Democrats wouldn’t do the same?

Furthermore, the confirmation of Judge Barrett, which is almost guaranteed success, doesn’t necessarily mean that all Supreme Court cases will be decided in favor of the conservatives. Yes, Barrett is an originalist, conservative judge that has originalist, conservative views.

But Supreme Court justices are confirmed for life, insulating them from politics so that they might better judge cases based on as much impartiality as possible. As humans go through different stages in life, their views and opinions may change, and justices may lean more towards one side, but they don’t always make predictable rulings. Amy Coney Barrett may prove to be a valuable addition to the Court. She is certainly very well qualified.

It’s easy for us, as outsiders, to look at what the Republicans are doing and call them hypocrites. And they are hypocrites.

But are they being uniquely evil, or are they just doing what any other flawed human being would do? If we were in their position, would we have the strength to do what we now deem “right?” Would we have the strength to refrain from putting a conservative justice on the Court?

That remains to be seen.