What the Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Means for America
By Isaac Escovedo, Editor-in-Chief
Normally the death of an 87-year-old civil servant is cause for remorse and remembrance on both sides of the aisle, but 2020 is not a normal year, and the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has set the political wheels in motion at a furious pace.
Justice Ginsburg, who died last Friday, was a feminist icon, a cancer survivor, and often considered the most progressive voice on the United States Supreme Court.. According to CBS News, her death marks the sixteenth time in our nation’s history that a Supreme Court seat has been left vacant before election day during an election year. While justices are supposed to be impartial, they generally lean liberal or conservative, and because Supreme Court Justices serve as long as they choose, by clinching a nomination this year, President Donald Trump could tip the balance in favor of Conservative policy for the next several decades. So what’s stopping him? Legally, nothing. The Senate must confirm Trump’s nominee by a simple majority of 51 votes, and because the Senate is majority Republican, the writing is on the wall. However, even though there is nothing legally stopping Trump from nominating a new Supreme Court Justice, for him to do so would be to admit to massive hypocrisy.
In 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, but the Republican-controlled Senate blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee, arguing that it would not be fair to citizens to push a candidate through in the final year of a presidency.
"I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, 'Let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,'" Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said when arguing against Obama’s nominee.
Graham and other Republican Senators, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, argue that what happened in 2016 went against the historical precedent.
“Apart from that one strange exception, no Senate has failed to confirm a nominee in the circumstances that face us now. The historical precedent is overwhelming and it runs in one direction.” McConnell said during his floor remarks Monday. "If our Democratic colleagues want to claim they are outraged, they can only be outraged at the plain facts of American history.” If it was not already clear that Republicans intend to confirm a new justice as soon as possible, Trump is slated to announce his nominee for the position on Saturday, Sept. 26. CNN has reported that Judge Amy Coney Barrett is likely to be his nominee.
This leaves America in a sticky situation. If Trump is able to get a nominee confirmed by the Senate, major political issues like access to legal abortions and the Affordable Care Act will likely be dismantled by the majority conservative Supreme Court. On the other hand, if Biden wins the election, he may face pressure from the left to add more Justices to the Supreme Court in a political move referred to as ‘court packing.’ However, Politico reports Biden does not want to pack the court.
This entire situation is complicated and polarizing, but the stakes have never been higher. It is worth noting that with the prospect of decades of control over the Supreme Court, the Democratic Party likely would have done the same thing the Republicans are doing. However, this situation leaves voters with an important moral quandary. Do they want politicians who will do anything necessary to fight for their beliefs? Or do they want politicians who will stick to their word, even when it means losing winnable battles? Regardless of the outcome of this Supreme Court situation, this is a time to remember Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman who did a great deal to improve this country. She will go down in history as a warrior for women’s rights and a great figure in American politics.