The reaction among social conservatives has been jubilant, but Barrett’s confirmation will be perhaps the most contentious in American history. It is almost certainly going to be the most resented and the one with the most far-reaching consequences. If Democrats somehow manage to retake the Senate it is likely that (as I predicted in this space some time ago) we will see the office of justice transformed into a version of the House of Lords, a quasi-legislative body complete with new members who serve set terms alongside those who inherited their seats in the days of yore. While it certainly looks as if Trump has the vote to push Barrett through, it’s still going to be a bloodbath.
There are only 35 days between now and the election. It is just about possible to imagine that Barrett gets confirmed before Nov. 3. But this will mean not meeting individually with the vast majority of senators, something that has been a hallmark of the process in the past, and that hearings, if they take place at all, are radically condensed into a day or two of (for journalists anyway) much-see television: softball questions from the GOP benches and Sorkin-esque speeches from one or more Democratic senators whose would-be money lines will be on Chinese-made coffee mugs and t-shirts before they have escaped the lips of the speakers. CNN anchors will breathlessly explain to bored septuagenarians that this confirmation is the worst threat to democracy since, oh, whatever Trump told Bob Woodward on pages xviii and ix of his new book. Then there will be an up-or-down vote and Barrett will be confirmed by a close but all-important margin of two.