If you've spent more than 15 minutes online in the past year, you've probably seen it: a picture (or, if you're fancy, sometimes a full gif!) of comedian Tim Robinson, dressed in a full-body hot dog costume, insisting that "we're all trying to find the guy who did this!" to a room full of dazed shoppers who, just moments earlier, watched as he drove an Oscar Mayer Weinermobile-esque car through a storefront window.
Since airing during the first season of Robinson's I Think You Should Leave series on Netflix, the sketch — and its meme offshoots — has become internet shorthand for any time someone (usually a politician) bemoans a mess of their own making. Which brings me to Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is either staggeringly naive and out of touch, or an expert troll. I leave it to you to decide for yourself which one it is.
Speaking in Kentucky this weekend, Barrett decried the sense that the court, with its newly installed conservative majority, was in any way partisan — heavens no!
"Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties," Barrett, a justice nominated by a Republican president and rushed through the nomination process by a Republican-held Senate for whom denying Democrats any seats on the bench was their self-professed top priority, insisted with a completely straight face.
"To say the court's reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner," she continued. "I think we need to evaluate what the court is doing on its own terms." Incredibly, the justice was not wearing a hot dog costume at the time.
To be clear, everything Barrett was complaining about is total bullshit. To say the Supreme Court's "reasoning" is not partisan doesn't mean anything when it's the outcome, not the reasoning that actually enforces (or not) laws. And those outcomes — such as allowing Texas to essentially institute a bounty system on people seeking reproductive health care — are deeply partisan. If they weren't, then why would conservatives (and to a lesser, but growing degree, Democrats) be so deeply committed to packing the courts with their hand-picked judicial nominees? Who cares whether the conservative majority court's reasoning is partisan or not, when Barrett and her fellow philosophical conservatives are allowing deeply conservative policies to go forward, just like partisan conservative lawmakers expected from them?
To parse the difference between partisan "reasoning" and "effect" in this case is the sort of hair-splitting, navel-gazing exercise in missing the forest for the trees that has come to define the court's rightward lurch in recent years. "Oh no no no, it's not that we're outlawing abortion, or letting any random schmuck with a library card carry a concealed handgun! Far from it. We're simply following the complicated and nuanced precedents established in 500 other court cases that we've cherry-picked to suit our ideological purposes, and hey, if abortion ends up being banned, or everyone starts packin' heat under their jackets, just like all those Republicans want it to be, well, that's just a weird coincidence!"
To highlight Barrett's obtuse insistence that the court is simply not a partisan institution at all, consider the following: Her remarks this weekend were delivered at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center, shortly after she was warmly introduced by the center's namesake, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.