WASHINGTON — Republican voters fearing a potential Joe Biden presidency are taking some solace in the belief that a newly conservative Supreme Court with Justice Amy Coney Barrett will restrain Democratic ambitions.
Some of President Donald Trump’s supporters believe the new 6-3 majority of Republican appointees will be a bulwark against a Biden administration’s attempts to move the country in a more progressive direction.
“We have no fears because there’s a conservative Supreme Court now,” said Cynthia Manville of Buckeye, Arizona, who attended a Trump rally in Phoenix last Wednesday. “We feel if Democrats cast legislation that’s radical liberal, it wouldn’t stand the test of time.”
“God has a certain way of watching over this country,” said Manville, who attended with her husband, Steve, both of them wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats.
Barrett, 48, describes herself as an “originalist” in the mold of the beloved conservative Antonin Scalia, and was confirmed by only Republican votes to replace the liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. The 11th-hour confirmation overcame Democratic objections and likely marked the court's sharpest rightward shift by a new justice in three decades.
The conservative victory on the court eases one of the biggest sources of anxiety among Republican voters, which has tended to be a motivator to vote. In 2016, an open Supreme Court seat galvanized evangelicals behind Trump. In the run-up to 2020 Election Day, Trump sought to bring back that urgency by warning that Biden could "pack the court" and erase their gains.
Kelly Krohn, a consultant based in Omaha, Nebraska, who supports Trump, said she’s “really, really excited” about the addition of Barrett to the court and expects her to do an “awesome job.”
“The only thing that makes me feel comfortable is that it’s not 6-3 the other way,” she said.
In 2012, while she was still a law professor, Barrett was critical of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold the bulk of Obamacare, which Republicans had sought to invalidate as unconstitutional.
Ginsburg was one of the justices who voted to uphold the 2010 law. Had Barrett been on the court then, the health care law may not exist today.
Krohn said that if Democrats try to pass something like that again, “they won’t be able to.”
'They need to be buried'
Barrett is expected to create a more conservative court on contentious issues such as abortion, LGBT rights and affirmative action, where a divided court in the Ginsburg era handed liberals some big victories. If the conservative legal movement gets its way, there would also be more limits on federal authority to regulate issues such as health care and climate change, and less judicial deference to agencies to set rules.
And her appointment expands conservative advantages on issues such as gun rights, campaign finance, voting restrictions, the role of religion in public life and the rights of business owners over workers.
Trump warned supporters Monday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that Democrats would “shred your Second Amendment” if they win the election — an already dramatized claim that has less credibility under an expanded conservative majority.
Marlene Parsons of Glendale, Arizona, said Barrett will “make a great Supreme Court justice” and expects her to strike down laws that don’t comply with the text of the Constitution.
“She’s not there to make the laws. She’s there to rule on the laws they made,” Parsons, who said she voted early for Trump, added. “If there’s an issue with them, they need to be buried.”
Ezra Levin, a progressive activist who co-founded the group Indivisible, said Republicans have good reason to believe the current Supreme Court will protect their causes. He emphasized the need for Democrats to respond by expanding the court and imposing term limits if they win power.
“This is a court that's not just going to support just their social and economic policies, it's antagonistic to democracy itself,” he said. “Anything that Joe Biden wants to get done — whether it's expanding federal support for health care, child care, parental leave, making D.C. a state, all of those things would be under threat from this court, which is 6-3 in the 19th century.”
Biden, the Democratic nominee who leads in polls heading into Election Day, has demurred on potential changes to the courts, saying he’d appoint a bipartisan commission to study the issue over 180 days and propose recommendations to de-politicize the court.
“I don’t ever feel protected,” said Arizona voter Amy Carmen, who was carrying a white “MAGA” bag as she left Trump's event.
“The status of our country and capitalism and democracy is in shambles,” she said, adding that Trump “better be re-elected” or she worries things will get ugly.
Other Trump supporters said they expect Barrett to apply the law and Constitution faithfully.
“I think she’s gonna be a conservative,” said Antoine Kendall, of Gilbert, Arizona, who is retired. “She’s gonna be a constitutionalist.”