For three straight days, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, up for a vacant seat at the Supreme Court, endured over 20 hours of questioning, often in the form of grandstanding and fear mongering, from the 22 Senators on the Judiciary Committee.
Through it all, she remained steadfast, patient, kind, and brilliant. Through it all she reminded us what a divided America could be, if only for a moment.
Over the years, the Supreme Court has released rulings on landmark cases that have changed American life and created significant controversy. Americans often responded to cases like Citizens United v. FEC, Roe v. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges, or Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, with a mix of anger, hope, fear, or exuberance, depending on whether or not they agreed with the ruling. Riots have broken out, documentaries have been made, and think pieces have been written on the way a ruling written by nine people who seem to get along so well behind the scenes, can create so much discord.
During all three days of Amy Coney Barrett's interrogation, Senators, particularly on the Left, demonstrated a range of emotions, from anger and sadness to fear and irrationality. In their statements, some of which were up to 30 minutes long, or question and answer sessions, elected officials engaged in conspiracy theories while others accused Barrett of bigotry, racism, hatred, or even just being unable to apply the law fairly.
Not once did Barrett take the bait and respond with hubris. Not once did Barrett become exasperated, though surely many of us did on her behalf. Not once did Barrett act snide, resentful, arrogant, or—worse—emotional, defenseless, or like a victim, through all her bullying.
No, somehow this mother of seven answered hundreds of questions about law, her beliefs, her family, her laundry, her relaxation habits (a solo glass of wine), her children, her opinions—and anything else that seemed like fair game to these Senators—with humility, kindness, intellect, and eternal—as the Bible would say in some older versions—long suffering.
If there were an All-Star baseball team of woke outrage, Senators Durbin, Klobuchar, Booker, Whitehouse, and Hirono would be the key players, such were their arrogant, irrational, emotional, statements these past three days.
They either pleaded for a total halt to the proceedings or at least, for someone more like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if you please—and every nonsensical thing in between. Separately and as a collective these Senators whined, pleaded, bullied, and nearly-yelled about everything but the thing Barrett was there to address: Election law, racism, homophobia, the LGBTQ community, dark money, immigration policies, gun rights, and more.
Instead of crumbling into a heap of despair, despondent that the brightest and best politicians of our age can hardly understand basic concepts of separation of powers, originalism, or the duties of a Supreme Court Justice, Barrett endured, with patience, the three-day test before her.
Not only did she endure but she shone: She pushed back slightly when a Senator asked the same question for the millionth time. She responded with humor when the situation called for it. She mostly responded with total verve and the sharpest intellect we've seen in this public arena when asked to explain her legal philosophy, often recalling details of a myriad of opinions she's written over her career or other existing, important legal works.
In Amy Coney Barrett's controversial confirmation in front of a group of Senators who disagree vehemently about politics, policy, and law, her stellar intellect, affable demeanor, and forthright behavior raises an important question in today's divisive era: Can people disagree about child rearing, career choices, policy decisions, and yes, Supreme Court decisions that have altered the trajectory of many American lives, without resorting to histrionics, violence, bullying, or meltdowns?
Only we know the answer, but for a moment, Amy Coney Barrett showed us it could be a reticent "yes."