On Friday, September 18, 2020, two things happened: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the brilliant trail-blazing, progressive Supreme Court Justice passed away and the issues in the 2020 Presidential campaign underwent a marked shift in direction.
For months, the battle between Trump and Biden has been centered on a few key points: the ongoing culture war, the fight against COVID-19 and the economy. With her passing, issues such as voting rights, immigration, abortion, marriage equality rights, health care and even the results of the election itself are now firmly back on the table.
With the passing of Justice Ginsberg, a new door has opened for Republicans to shape the court and cement the bench’s conservative majority. It didn’t take long for the key players in this high stakes game to show their hand and seemingly forget the things they said in 2016 when the tables were turned and it was the Democrats trying to put forth a nominee.
Four years ago when President Obama moved to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia the right rose up in arms and fervently declared that it should absolutely be the prerogative of the next elected President to choose the member of the highest court in the land.
Let’s be clear folks, when Obama made his move to put Merrick Garland on the bench, Election Day was close to 300 days away and the cry from the right at this affront to democracy was nearly deafening. Quick time check here, for those of you counting, November 3 is about 40 days away and yet the proposition of having a nominee put forth and to a vote in a potentially lame duck Senate doesn’t seem to phase those same Republicans.
In 2016, Mitch McConnell was one of the most outspoken and vocal opponents of Garland’s appointment stating that he believed that the American people should have a say in the court’s direction, that is to say that the nomination process should be put over until after the election.
Odd, isn’t it? Considering this is the very same Mitch McConnell who has all but guaranteed that a vote on Trump’s eventual nominee will take place on the floor of the Senate before the end of the year. Again, just a reminder here, the election is in about 40 days and could possibly be followed by a lame duck period in the Senate if the Democrats pick up the seats they are expected to win. Which, in essence, would mean that a Senate with no real power would be installing a Supreme Court Justice for a President who may or may not be re-elected.
The big question that everyone is asking is what is the likelihood of a Trump nominee being rammed through the nomination process prior to his leaving office (high hopes here people) as the vetting process alone traditionally takes months. In the last iteration of this story, not only was it unthinkable for an outgoing President to appoint a nominee to the bench, but 10 months just didn’t seem like enough time to get it done.
However, all that being said, it should be kept in mind that over the summer months the Trump team was working behind the scenes to create a shortlist of potential candidates for the bench while Justice Ginsberg’s health was on the decline and it is rumored that his team had already conducted interviews with some of the names on his list prior to her passing.
Trump himself stated over the weekend that the new Justice will be a woman and has gone insofar as to publicly name two potential frontrunner candidates; Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Judge Barbara Lagoa. Both of these women are Trump appointees to the Appeals Courts in the 7th and 11th circuit respectively and have impressive resumes, not to mention the support of the Christian and Evangelical right.
Both of these women are big red check marks in the big red boxes that will no doubt breeze either one of them through the confirmation process with a Republican controlled Senate. A prospect that seems all the more likely given that as of Tuesday morning Republicans now have the numbers in place they need.
A mere three days after the passing of Justice Ginsberg, Trump had announced that his pick would be announced by the end of the week. By Tuesday morning word had spread that Trump had privately met with Judge Barrett twice and we woke up to the news Wednesday morning that she has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Ginsberg.
Initially there was a glimmer of hope that some Republican Senators may actually do the right thing and not ram through a nominee, standing by their words in 2016. However, their consciences along with Lindsay Graham’s 2016 declaration of “you can use my words against me” appear to have met their expiration date. With Mitt Romney jumping on board the “Confirmation Express” bandwagon it is now more or less a done deal that Trump’s pick for the court will be confirmed on the Senate floor, possibly even before election day.
“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.”
To say that the actions of the Republican Party and their blind following of Trump on his fools’ errand have disappointed me would be an understatement. Despite us being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, I expected them to be better and frankly expected more from them given the caliber of the woman who they will be voting to replace.
Despite her diminutive stature, Justice Ginsberg was a giant, both an icon and a crusader for social justice and civil rights and regardless of political stripes, she was damn well respected. In her final days, she told her granddaughter “my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed”.
So now that the question facing Senate Republicans, of whether or not to honour Justice Ginsberg’s final wishes has been answered it remains to be seen what, if any, impact their decision will have on their ability to hang onto their seats.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed”
Will they see what little moderate support they may have had disintegrate? A real possibility considering 69% of the American people said that it should be the next elected President who chooses Ginsberg’s replacement and will this result in them seeing their seats lost to Democratic challengers. Or will they enjoy a boost from the conservative base now that they have firmly planted themselves in Trump’s camp.
All of this remains to be seen, but rest assured that this has had an impact on voters of both stripes, as the battle for the Supreme Court as an election issue has now stretched into the electorate itself. Justice Ginsberg’s passing and the subsequent actions of Trump and McConnell’s band of Senators have the capacity to motivate both Republican and Democratic voters and move the needle on those who were undecided as of a few days ago.
In this election the liberal and conservative bases have more or less been galvanized, however it was the moderates and the undecided voters that remained the question mark in this election as they can easily sway the outcome of it. The thing to consider is that for some voters who swore off voting for Trump after casting their ballot for him in 2016, a vote for Trump this go around would help to cement an unquestionable conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Thereby protecting their rights and values, which could be enough for some.
Conversely, if you are a Democrat in particular, a woman, member of the LGTBQ or other minority group, you will do everything in your power to protect Ginsberg’s legacy and see that Trump is not re-elected, because if Trump wins and his pick is installed it will be your rights and freedoms that are under attack.
Justice Ginsberg’s death rocked the nation and had an effect on people all over the world and the ripple effect of it has the ability to impact the lives of millions of Americans.
What is being lost in this fight for the Supreme Court seat is the extraordinary magnitude of the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. What people need to and should remember is that this was a woman who literally gave everything she had to protect the rights of women, minorities, LGBTQ and immigrants until her dying breath.
This is a woman that was so terrified of what a Trump presidency would mean for these people and their rights that instead of retiring in 2016 as planned at the age of 83 she chose to sit another four years to ensure that the most important decisions and protections of the court remained intact. After all that she had done for the country and its people, at this stage in her life she should have been afforded the opportunity to live out the rest of her days in peace. Instead she fought until the very end to put out the fire that Trump’s election started.
Justice Ginsberg fought her whole life to see women treated as equals, not better than their male counterparts, but equal to them and believed that women should and need to be present everywhere that decisions are being made.
Her death has massive implications for America and its highest court in the land and by extension its people. Her passing has turned into the political football of the election, but what needs to be remembered in all of this is the debt of gratitude that America owes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
She was a giant, not just among men, but amongst everyone and everything she stood next to. She was brilliant and she was a fighter and although she may not have fought for or defended each American, directly her decisions and her dissents have shaped America and directly impacted the lives of Americans from all walks of life.
The depth of the gratitude owed to Justice Ginsberg is immeasurable, it is women like her that have unabashedly paved the way for other women to have and do more, women like me, who both want a family and a career and don’t think that they should have to give up either to have the other. Women who are unapologetically ambitious and believe that they should be able to become and do anything not because of their sex but in spite of it.
It is women like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg that I want my daughter to know and look up to, and I am so thankful to have been able to witness her greatness.
Whatever the outcome of the election and the battle for the seat on the Supreme Court it is important to remember what was lost on Friday, September 18, 2020 and it is important to fight to keep her legacy intact. She is owed that much at the very least.