As a potential successor to the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the conservative Catholic judge serves two primary functions. She’ll excite the Christian right ahead of a presidential election, and she outrages the libs. The reasoning isn’t all that sophisticated: Upset by Barrett’s nomination? You’re the real sexist.
It’s an old trick. Women helped invent it. Barrett is the beneficiary of decades of right-wing activism, much of it carried out by women who not only rejected feminism but sought actively to bring it down low. In her religious conviction and her status as an accomplished but anti-feminist woman, the judge recalls Phyllis Schlafly, who died four years ago this month. Barrett was still a toddler when Schlafly and her militant housewives vanquished the Equal Rights Amendment. But to the left, Barrett is a familiar specter: a traitor to her sex.
We are all living in Schlafly country now. Barrett’s nomination is only the latest evidence. The border separating mainstream conservative politics from the fringe was never all that robust, but in 2020, it is invisible.