The United States of America: land of the free, home of the brave. To paraphrase General Douglas McArthur, “a nation dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfilment of his most cherished wish-freedom, tolerance, and justice.”
Then the last 4 years have happened and seemingly the same morals and dedications America stands for have faded away, and it very well looks like the nation once at the forefront of the free world could continue to regress.
If the year 2020 could not get any worse for American society, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sadly passed away at the age of 87, following a series of health problems and a battle with pancreatic cancer. With the upcoming Presidential election taking place in less than two months time, Ginsburg’s death could have major ramifications on American life for decades to come.
There is now an opening in one of the nine seats on the US Supreme Court: the top legal body in that part of the World. With the power to establish and strike down national law, landmark cases like Brown v Board of Education (which deemed segregation and racial inequality in American schools as unconstitutional) and Obergefell vs Hodges (a 2015 case which saw gay marriage being legalised in the United States), holding a seat on the Supreme Court can have as much power as any President.
Ginsburg’s passing now allows Donald Trump to nominate his 3rd Judge since his Presidency began in 2016; both his previous appointments in Neill Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were mired in controversy, and Ginsburg’s seat opening up just weeks before the Presidential Election opens up a whole new can of worms.
The Republican Party, which controls the United States Senate that will approve and reject Trump’s future nominee, has attracted strong criticism and hypocrisy claims for their very open willingness to rush through and replace Ginsburg.
The process to select a Supreme Court Justice is long and arduous: the sitting President usually has a list of candidates for the vacancy, and after meetings and a vetting out process, the President puts forward this candidate to take their place on the Supreme Court. The candidate will eventually be voted upon in the Senate by the 100 Senators (2 from each of the 50 states) who will ratify or reject the President’s choice: the key thing to notice here is that the Senate holds almost all of the power in this situation.
Back in early 2016, when Democrat Barack Obama was President and the Republicans still controlled the Senate, the death of Justice Antonin Scalia should have seen Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland receive a hearing and vote from the Senate over the vacancy. However, Kentucky Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to have the hearing held, citing that no nomination should be made in an election year and the new President should be the one to make the decision. At the time, 17 Republican Senators were outspoken in their belief that none of the necessary appointment procedures should go ahead. It will be interesting to see just how many of those 17 stand by their words.
Thus it’s not difficult to understand why McConnell and America’s Conservatives are so eager to have Ginsburg’s seat filled, especially with current opinion polls having Trump to be the underdog to his opponent Joe Biden, whom will surely look to make a more suitable choice like the wrongly-denied Garland.
So what are the potential ramifications of the death and subsequent replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg? The 87 year old was one of the Court’s more liberal figures, and although the Supreme Court is designed to be impartial with its representatives acting neutral, any new appointment made by Trump and the GOP will further imbalance the Court to being far more conservative than neutral.
The effect this can have will be felt for more than just years, but entire generations. In the most extreme circumstances, die hard Conservatives like the aforementioned Gorsuch and Kavanaugh could seek to overturn landmark legislative issues like a woman’s right to privacy and to have an abortion (as covered in the Roe v Wade case of 1973). Of course the case would have to come to the Supreme Court first, so such a matter is safe for the time being.
One thing is clear however, the magnitude of the 2020 US Presidential Election has just grown exponentially, as whether it’s Trump being re-elected or Biden making a return to the West Wing, the void left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg will likely be filled by the winner of November 3rd’s vote. Thus, the next 7 weeks could see changes that alter American society for a long, long time.