Will Amy Coney Barrett save America — or wreck it?

These hopes and fears are farfetched. First, while Barrett may be a conservative, a supermajority Republican SCOTUS is not necessarily a supermajority conservative one. The Supreme Court has had a six-seat Republican majority as recently as the Obama years, when the Roberts Court included two George W. Bush appointees (Roberts and Samuel Alito), two George H.W. Bush appointees (Clarence Thomas and David Souter) and two Ronald Reagan appointees (Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy). Yet even before the Obama-appointed Sonia Sotomayor replaced Justice Souter, the Roberts Court was hardly had a conservative majority, let alone a supermajority. Souter was about as reliably progressive a vote as the typical Democratic appointee. Anthony Kennedy was famous as a ‘swing vote’, rather than a conservative one, and three years after Souter’s retirement, Chief Justice Roberts himself would vote with the court’s progressives to uphold the constitutionality of Obamacare.

At the time he was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005, Roberts was sold to the base by conservative leaders in terms rather reminiscent of the way Barrett is being sold today, with a focus on Roberts’s surefire conservative credentials based on his wife’s involvement with the anti-abortion Feminists for Life. Yet Roberts has grown into a curiously Kennedy-like triangulator and joined the Trump-appointed Neil Gorsuch and every one of the Court’s progressives in the Bostock v. Clayton County decision earlier this year that redefined ‘sex’ in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation — nobody’s idea of the original meaning behind the law, nor, until very recently, a plausible interpretation of the word itself.