In modern politics, you’re forever one litmus test away from becoming a mortal enemy to your own side—or at least to the most drooling activist fringe of your own side.
John Fetterman discovered that recently when his heresies about Israel and border security led members of his progressive base, apparently, to wish another stroke upon him. Many Republicans have learned it the hard way, starting with the guy who served Donald Trump loyally as vice president for years and then nearly ended up lynched when he failed an especially big litmus test on January 6.
This week it was Amy Coney Barrett’s turn. Even helping overturn Roe v. Wade wasn’t enough to earn her a pass on the latest ideological litmus test, it appears.
On Monday, Barrett provided the deciding vote in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that lifted a lower court’s injunction. That court had temporarily barred federal Border Patrol agents from cutting through concertina wire that the state of Texas had erected along a particular stretch of land near the southern border. The wire is there to deter illegal immigration and fentanyl trafficking, the state argued; the wire is impeding agents from reaching migrants to process them and assist the injured, the feds replied.
SCOTUS didn’t explain its reasoning in lifting the injunction, probably because the effect of its order is so limited. It didn’t bar Texas from installing concertina wire or other physical obstacles along other parts of the border. In fact, it didn’t bar Texas from installing more wire on this part of the border. All it did was allow the Border Patrol to cut through the wire as necessary to carry out its duties while the underlying litigation on the merits plays out, knowing that an appellate court is set to hear arguments early next month. The Supreme Court might very well side with Texas in the end.
But in activist circles, where every setback is an unimaginable catastrophe, the ruling amounts to nothing less than Barrett rubber-stamping a Joe Biden-approved “invasion” of the United States.