On Friday evening, the first night of Rosh Hashannah, the highest court in the land lost its greatest member: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg’s career as an attorney and jurist is remarkable beyond words and a testament to progress in America, namely for women and other minorities, such as Jewish Americans. Tributes here, here, here, here, here, and here are some of the few that have done more justice than my words could ever imagine.
Mere hours after her passing was announced, unfortunately, many Republicans were hardly able to restrain themselves from blaming Ginsburg for millions of abortions or plotting a conservative takeover of the court.
Anyone with a sense of decency should be troubled.
Ardent followers of the saga that has become American politics should remember the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 when Republicans stalled the nomination of Merrick Garland. Their rationale? No nominees in an election year.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even said to “use his words against him” in opposing Garland’s nomination in the case that a Supreme Court vacancy arrives in 2020 because he’d oppose it. Let’s all not act too surprised that he’s seen to have suffered some memory loss.
Republicans cite historical precedent saying that most Supreme Court confirmations that have taken place in an election year have involved the President and the Senate being of the same party.
History is on their side too. There’s been 29 Supreme Court vacancies in an election year with presidents making nominations each time. (Even righteous men fall into temptation!) 19 of these 29 vacancies came when both the White House and Senate was controlled by both parties. 10 of these nominations came before the election and nine were successful. For the 10 nominations that came prior to an election with the White House and Senate in opposing parties, only one was successful: Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller in 1888 appointed by then-President Grover Cleveland.
Short of raw politics, there’s no need to appoint a Supreme Court justice until after the election. Even Honest Abe knew this. After all, he waited until after his re-election to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that arose 27 days before the election.
The modern day Republican Party is neither honest nor representative of Abe’s legacy.
But, here’s a pill more painful for some to swallow: Democrats would do the same thing if given the chance.
In fact, want someone to blame? Former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- N.V.) is a good place to start.
Through his procedural changes to earn some short-sighted legislative gains, he has given Trump and his Republicans some of the biggest advantages imaginable: from ending the filibuster, the most powerful Majority Leadership in American history, and yes, a lower threshold for Supreme Court nominees.
Want solutions? I have no idea. I’m a college newspaper editor trying to push out a weekly column but I can give you a story.
But here’s a great place to start: realize that the world will not crash over.
Donald Trump will probably nominate Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday morning. She’ll more than likely pass Senate nomination and be sworn in weeks before the election.
Is she more conservative than Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Oh, you bet. Will your life change that much? Maybe, but not in the way that you would imagine.
Roe v. Wade is here to stay. Between Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and the liberal members of the court, it’ll be a shock if a challenge to Roe v. Wade is ever even considered.
Gays should not fear for our marriage rights, either. Again, this court even with Barrett probably wouldn’t agree to hear a challenge nor should any substantive one be met.
The Court will face a lot of important issues in the months and years ahead, but our focus shouldn’t be on nine unelected judges. It belongs in the halls of our state and federal legislatures where hundreds of people are elected to hear our pleas and cater to our needs or get the boot come November.
Regardless of who fills this seat and when it happens, your life will go on as normal and so will everyone else. Who knows? You might grow, evolve, and change your mind.
For the big brains in Washington, it’ll just be same old, same old. Hypocritical, solution seeking bureaucrats specializing in what the late Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken referred to as, “plain, simple, and wrong.”
Leonard A. Robinson is editor-in-chief of The Sting.