Trump's legacy cemented as Barrett confirmed to supreme court

Josephine Tovey
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Ken Cedeno/EPA</span>
Photograph: Ken Cedeno/EPA

Welcome to today’s US election briefing for Australia.

“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

That is how the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, celebrated the elevation of Amy Coney Barrett to the US supreme court. Barrett, a conservative who has previously endorsed overturning the landmark abortion decision Roe v Wade, was confirmed by the Senate on Monday night following an expedited and highly controversial process, filling the vacancy left by progressive icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

McConnell was right – even if Democrats pull off a huge victory next week, the right wing bloc now commands a 6-3 majority on the country’s highest court. It may prove the most consequential aspect of Trump’s legacy.

As my US colleague Tom McCarthy writes, “every issue of importance to progressive activists, starting with the basic right of every American to vote and extending to the need for regulations that protect employees from dangerous working conditions and consumers from predatory lenders, is on the chopping block with Barrett on the court”. So too is the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which is expected to come before the court soon after the election.

More imminently though, a number of voting rights cases that could help decide the election are likely to reach the court in the next week (a critical one was decided today in Republicans’ favour – more on that later). The election itself, if the result is disputed, could also be decided by the court. You can read our full report here.

It is worth pointing out, though, there are some in the Democrats progressive wing who don’t accept they “won’t be able to do much” about this. There were more calls on Monday night to expand the number of justices on the court. JOe Biden has so far committed only to a review of the judicial branch.

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said it was time for her party to play hardball. “There is a legal process for expansion,” she tweeted.

The big stories

The candidates sparred over their campaign styles today, with Donald Trump saying his opponent, who has not held major rallies, “waved the white flag on life”, while Biden chastised the president for holding “super-spreader events”.

The US supreme court has sided with Republicans to prevent Wisconsin from counting mail-in ballots that are received after election day, even if they are posted before then. Democrats argued that the flood of absentee ballots and other challenges posed by the pandemic makes it necessary to extend the period in which ballots can be counted.

And Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina, another crucial swing state, have requested the US supreme court stop a recent court decision that would extend their state’s deadline for mail-in ballots. Democrats say its an attempt to disenfranchise eligible voters.

The international effort to constrain dangerous global heating will hinge, in large part, on which of the dichotomous approaches of Trump or Biden prevails. This deep dive into the candidates’ climate policies explains why.

Does mail-in voting lead to fraud and will it help Democrats? In this explainer, we look at all the big questions around the surge in absentee voting this year.

Stock markets in the US and Europe fell sharply as investors focused on signs that rich countries’ efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic were foundering.

The Republican party has become dramatically more illiberal in the past two decades and now more closely resembles ruling parties in autocratic societies than its former centre-right equivalents in Europe, according to a new international study.

Quote of the day

President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about, but he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”

Jared Kushner, ever the Tom Wambsgans of the Trump family, talking about support from the Black community.

Election view

Voters queue outside Madison Square Garden in New York
Voters queue outside Madison Square Garden in New York. Photograph: Paul Zimmerman/REX/Shutterstock

Democrats must face up to the problems with mail-in ballots because it is their candidates who will suffer when votes go uncounted, argues Nathan Robinson in this blunt piece. It’s not about fraud, he says, but the many shortcomings of absentee voting in the US today.

“Scott Morrison is the first Pentecostal Christian in the world to lead a democratic country. But Donald Trump’s presidency is far more infused with Pentecostalism than Morrison’s prime ministership is,” writes David Smith, in this fascinating look at the differences between the role of religion in politics in Australia and the US.

Video of the day

Trump has denied the scientific evidence of global heating and shredded environmental protections for American lands, animals and people. Here’s an explainer on climate change and the election.

Around the web

The surge in early voting is being interpreted as a sign of an impending “blue wave” by some commentators. This sharp piece from Real Clear Politics pours cold water on that optimism, arguing “this is all speculation dressed up as news”.

This FiveThirtyEight piece is a week old but still worth a read – on Trump’s growing and slipping support among some demographics. Most interestingly, polls suggest he has widened his appeal with young men of colour.

And if there was any doubt “owning the libs” was a key philosophy now guiding the GOP, here’s how the House Judiciary Committee Republicans celebrated the news of Barrett’s confirmation to the supreme court: by sarcastically tweeting “Happy birthday, Hillary Clinton!”.

What the numbers say: 2,492

The number of new Covid cases in Pennsylvania on Monday, a new record in the crucial swing state of almost 13 million people. Trump held three rallies that day.

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