What does the future of Democracy look like?
October 26, 2020
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves a vacancy on the Supreme Court and an opportunity for the conservative party to secure a 6-3 majority. With the presidential election right around the corner, President Donald Trump has already nominated a new justice: Amy Coney Barrett. This eliminates the power of a swing justice to tip controversial decisions one way or another, leaving many of the upcoming decisions up to the conservative majority.
President Donald Trump nominated the newest member who, if confirmed, will replace Ginsburg’s spot in court. This will be Trump’s third nomination, leaving the court to what many believe is an unbalanced representation of national opinion. Due to this belief, there has been talk among democratic senators about reformation, although it has not officially gone to the legislation.
Attempting to secure a judge on the court so close to the election has also met significant criticism.
“I think that, regardless of your opinions about Amy Coney Barrett specifically, the push to elect a new justice within two months of the election sets a concerning precedent for trying to carry a presidential and senatorial legacy beyond their term,” junior Sam Zelazo said, “…Presidents and senators are reelected every few years because political opinions can change within that time frame, so expanding your legacy in a more direct way, outside of, say, policy, means that the government no longer fully represents the people, but rather the personal interests of the person in charge.”
“I think that, regardless of your opinions about Amy Coney Barrett specifically, the push to elect a new justice within two months of the election sets a concerning precedent for trying to carry a presidential and senatorial legacy beyond their term.”
— Sam Zelazo
A 6-3 conservative majority would drastically change the future of the court—many important and widely publicized cases from previous years could have had far different outcomes with an unbalanced conservative majority. For example, in the past, abortion was pronounced a human right in Roe v Wade, a ruling which, according to FiveThirtyEight agrees with the popular opinion. However, if Ginsburg’s position (of the majority opinion) was replaced by a conservative position, those decisions may lean right, ruling abortion illegal and therefore disagreeing with the popular opinion. This reflects the unbalanced representation many people (typically liberals) feel. Other popular opinions on things like gun rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and tax returns will not be accurately represented according to the majority in court.
A few major upcoming cases are subject to change or fall towards the conservative majority with the replacement of Ginsburg. One example is Roe v. Wade, which refers to a women’s right to abortion. Another major example is the Affordable Care Act—assuming Trump’s conservative nomination will fill Ginsburg’s spot, it is likely to be voted unconstitutional by the court, meaning Obamacare will disappear.
US History and Social Studies teacher Aaron Shulow describes possible upcoming cases that may be drastically affected in the future; “The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which was upheld by a 5-4 vote that included the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the majority as well as challenges to the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade/Planned Parenthood v. Casey.”
To combat this inaccurate representation of the American public, reformation to the appointed period served by justices is becoming a possibility. Right now, every member is appointed for life. Reformation of these rules might mean each justice is appointed for say 20 years instead, which some believe would make the court more balanced. This shift in power will stay in place until another justice retires, or is impeached.
President Donald Trump’s first term is close to its end, but regardless Trump will still get to nominate the newest member of the Supreme Court. While some argue that this imbalance in the court may be unconstitutional, it has not been ruled out which leaves the future of the court up to the conservative party.