The muted nature of the event belied its significance. Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a justice of the US Supreme Court on Monday night, after a quick and uneventful passage through her Senate hearings. Only one Republican voted against the woman who now establishes a conservative supermajority on the bench.
The implications are sweeping in their extent, and lasting in their duration. The high court now has more potential to trim reproductive rights and the government’s regulatory powers, among other features of the liberal settlement. Having installed three of the six conservative judges, as well as many more in the lower courts, Donald Trump can lose next week’s election and still go down as a more consequential US president than many two-termers. Such is the outsized role of the judiciary in a nation where the legislature is dysfunctional and unpopular.
Vigilant to the adverse changes that might be afoot, some Democrats want to stuff the Supreme Court with more judges, to tilt its ideological balance in their favour. Others suggest less incendiary reforms, such as giving each president a set number of appointees or limiting the kinds of cases that go before the court. Joe Biden, Mr Trump’s Democratic challenger, has been ominously vague on the subject.