Supreme Court Justice Ruth Baber Ginsburg passed away after losing her battle against metastatic pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020. This not only marks the death of a great hero and activist for female rights in the court system but also marks the beginning of a battle that could change our political system.
Court Justice Ginsburg held her seat for a little over 27 years, being appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. During her life, she accomplished many things in her fight against gender discrimination in legislation and regulation during her law career including her time on the Supreme Court. Her legacy will be remembered for generations and her impact on American legislation and regulations will be ingrained in history for years to come.
However, her death will also cause her last great impact on the United States of America: the most partisan, political, and hostile Supreme Court nomination in American history that will change how the political system is for generations.
Though it might sound ludicrous from an outside perspective, this single nomination on one court could cause such a massive political event that the entire political landscape is changed. It is going to happen and there are two major reasons. The first is that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, meaning that every court ruling that is set in that court affects every law and court ruling in the nation, from Alaska to Maine.
Put simply, one could assume if someone wanted to pass a certain piece of legislation and make it a national law, they could pass it through Congress. However, it would be difficult if one or both of the political parties does not want it to be law, so the only other option would be trying to have it be heard in the Supreme Court. Though the ruling could be negative, if the Supreme Court had judges that are more likely to vote for or against the legislation, it would streamline the process.
However, if a certain ruling in the Supreme Court on a piece of legislation was passed, then it would be law everywhere in the country. For example, in the case Brown v. Board of Education, the court ruled that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional, stopping all segregated schooling across America. This makes the Supreme Court extremely powerful, but also very sought out especially when a seat opens up from both parties.If one party could get a majority of judges that lean toward their ideology, then they have a much higher chance of getting what they want on legislation through this court. Additionally, both political parties, and the majority of the nation, have realized that the effects of passed legislation are largely temporary because one party could gain control of the government and undo everything that was passed.
Before Court Justice Ginsburg’s death, the Supreme Court had a conservative majority, five conservative-leaning and four liberal-leaning. With her death, it opens up one of the liberal seats, meaning if President Trump and the Republicans fill her seat with a conservative-leaning judge, it will leave the court with six conservative and three liberal judges. And since the next oldest judge is liberal-leaning Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer, it most likely will be a while before the Democrats can replace one of the conservative judges with a more liberal one.
Of course, this has led to a battle for the court nomination between the two major parties and since the Senate and the White House are controlled by the Republicans, it seems highly likely that a conservative will hold that seat. Despite breaking their own rules by nominating a Supreme Court candidate before an election year, they set in 2016 during a very similar situation. Even though this is obvious hypocrisy, anyone in the position to have a supermajority on the Supreme Court, which would almost ensure rulings that would favor conservatives until the next conservative judge retires or dies, which will take years.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already made October 30th, four days before the election, the day to vote on whoever President Trump nominates for the Supreme Court. This mostly solidifies that this seat will be held by a conservative, unless four Republicans senators come out against the vote, which at this moment seems very unlikely. This would mean all legislation that gets sent to the court will be more likely ruled on in a conservative matter. When this comes to fruition, it will shift the entire country toward the conservative agenda since all rulings in the court affect all laws in the nation.
This makes anything that conservatives label unfavorable can just be sent to the Supreme Court, where it would almost certainly be ruled in a positive conservative matter. And though this makes conservatives seem like hypocrites, which they are, it can be argued that if the positions were flipped and the Democrats were in favor of having a supermajority in the court, they would take the chance as well.
However, in the Republican case, it will lead to a battle across the nation, especially during this election year. With the entire nation becoming more partisan, a majority conservative Supreme Court would lead to desperation on the left to gain more power in the court, whether it is from the people or the Democrats. In order to gain power, they may resort to packing the Supreme Court with more liberal judges since there is no set number of judges in the Constitution and that Democrats are likely to gain a slight majority in the Senate after the election. If this were to happen, it would lead to an endless battle of corruption of each party trying to out due each other, which will reflect terribly on the American people. This may seem like pessimism, but Senate Minority leader Charles Schumer has already said that nothing is off the table if the Republicans put their nominee on the court, which could very much lead to the scenario.
In this troubling and hostile time in American history, it may seem like this year is out to get us, but this never needed to be a major issue. Most Americans agree that the courts should be as apolitical as possible, meaning that they are neutral in all cases, only ever-abiding to the constitution. People from both sides of the political spectrum believe in the courts, and if either side feels as though they are rigged against them, they will never trust the government again. So the best solution that either side should take is one that makes the courts as balanced politically as possible so that the parties try not to gain political power and to have both sides believe in the courts. If this does not happen, we could see the start of the end of our governmental system.