Picture a female jurist who has consistently defied social expectations imposed on women and whose legal thinking is closely bound up with her faith. No, I’m not talking about Amy Coney Barrett, reported to top President Trump’s list of candidates to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. I’m talking about Ginsburg herself.
Ginsburg believed fervently that conventional expectations shouldn’t hinder women as they seek their full, fair share of public life. Nor was she shy about how her Jewish faith shaped her judicial mind. In an essay for the American Jewish Committee published in 1993, she wrote: “Laws as protectors of the oppressed, the poor, the loner, is evident in the work of my Jewish predecessors. . . . The biblical command ‘Justice, justice shalt thou pursue’ is a strand that ties them together.”
By those criteria, Barrett would make a most worthy successor to RBG. In nominating the 48-year-old Louisianian, the president would present the nation with an inspiring vision of what it means to be an American woman in 2020 — one that could by turns surprise and captivate the suburban women Trump is keen to court while also delivering for the GOP base.
She is recognized as an expert on how judges are supposed to interpret statutes — a crucial role, as demonstrated by Justice Neil Gorsuch’s bizarre recent reading of “gender identity” into a civil-rights statute enacted in the 1960s. She has also thought deeply about the relationship between the branches of government, a gnarly and seriously important area of law.
To these achievements Barrett marries a vibrant Christian faith. For the evangelicals and Catholics the president needs to turn out in November, her pro-life bona fides are on display not just in her activities and statements, but also in her own family: She is a mother of seven, including one biological child with intellectual disabilities and two adopted from Haiti.
Yes, Democrats and their media allies will attack and demonize her — viciously. But that’s no reason to nominate other candidates who have no record on life issues. As one conservative activist told me, “the left is going to burn everything down no matter whom we pick, so we might as well get the right person on the court.”
One senior Hill staffer was even blunter: “This late in the game, I’m not interested in today’s version of [George H.W. Bush chief of staff John] Sununu vouching for today’s version of [Justice David] Souter” — i.e., social conservatives don’t want to gamble on a candidate without a clear record on life and religious-liberty questions, only to have the justice with a lifetime appointment turn out to be a liberal squish.
The inherent dignity of all life is no mere slogan or academic concept for Barrett. Perhaps a large family like hers is unusual for a woman of Barrett’s social class and profession. Then again, as one highly accomplished lawyer put it in 2007, it’s “good for the public to see that women come in all sizes and shapes, just as men do, and they don’t necessarily look alike or think alike.”
That lawyer was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Sohrab Ahmari is The New York Post’s op-ed editor and author of the forthcoming book “The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos.” Twitter: @SohrabAhmari