WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is expected to announce the nomination on Saturday of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in a transparent effort to seal a second term in the White House amid clamour from his faithful base to extend it to “12 more years.”
Trump’s frequent reference to prolonging his Presidency indefinitely has mostly been seen as trolling opponents, but at a campaign rally in Atlanta on Friday, when he complained that “you can’t joke” about serving more than two terms without being accused of being a dictator who won’t cede power, a crowd of Trump faithful began chanting “12 more years!” to a visibly pleased President. The US Constitution has a two-term limit for Presidency.
Trump has repeatedly declined to commit to a peaceful transition if he loses in the November 3 election, asserting even before Day that ballots will be rigged, though there is no evidence to back his claim. At another rally on Friday night in Virginia, Trump insisted “the only way we’re going to lose, is if there’s mischief,” while offering “a very friendly transition” if he is not cheated.
By most accounts, Trump’s claim of large scale cheating has no basis, with studies even in conservative circles showing minuscule, negligent instances of voter fraud. Trailing in almost every poll even though he is boosted by selective crowds of faithful at curated rallies, the US President is widely seen as heading for a defeat in terms of popular votes.
But there is growing apprehension that he and his cohorts are readying a playbook where they will challenge mail-in ballots before they are fully counted, and take the issue to the courts, where a judiciary they have stacked with conservatives will ensure a Trump victory and a second-term.
The expected nomination of Judge Amy Barrett – and the Republican rush to hold hearings and confirm her before November 3 — is seen as a key in this playbook. A 48-year old mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti, she is seen as a conservative icon with reports of her affiliation to a religious group that believes women must obey their husbands in all matters. The group, People of Praise, inspired the hit TV show The Handmaid’s Tale, which depicts a dystopian world where women are oppressed.
The Senate Republican leadership is expected to notify her confirmation hearing in October and rush through a vote by October 29, making it the fastest ever SC judge approval in recent history just days before elections. A typical confirmation process takes about 90 days, and one has not been initiated so close to the elections in recent times.
Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and even with two dissenting members, they hold an edge. Even if they lose another seat in a run-off election which Democrats are expected to win before November 3, the vice-president has a casting vote in the event of a 50-50 tie to confirm Barrett.
Barrett’s elevation to Supreme Court will give conservatives a 6-3 majority, and even beyond determining Trump’s political fate, will shape national policies for generations to come.
The expected October drama has the country on edge, with the politics in Washington surrounded by flames of racial and social unrest across the country. The idea that Trump will throw a litigious spanner in the works before final results, claim victory on the basis of a partial count that excludes valid mail-in ballots, and seal that claim with judicial backing, is now seen as a certainty unless the Biden-Harris ticket wins by a landslide that takes late-counted mail-in ballots out of the equation.
Asked about what scenario he could visualize on November 3 amid fears of a violent and militarized finale, West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin told an online festival audience earlier this week, “If I was able to romanticize the whole thing…for the first time since the man was sworn in, Republicans, his enablers, his apologists, march up to the White House and say, ‘Donald, it’s time to go. You will not ruin this country. You will not start a civil war,’ ”
“I don’t in a million years expect Donald Trump will ever do the right thing, except by accident. He’s irredeemable. The rest of us aren’t,” Sorkin added.