Tonight, people all across the nation are broken-hearted over the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. No, it wasn’t unexpected, but still it was a shock. When I received the first notification on my phone shortly after 7:30, I felt the tears immediately welling, as I’m sure many others did.I wish that I could simply write a tribute to Justice Ginsburg without bringing politics into it, but unfortunately that is not possible. Still, let me take a few minutes to tell you a few things you may not know about RBG as she is affectionately known.
Rejected after law school for a Supreme Court clerkship because she was a woman, she began her legal career as a law professor and pioneering advocate for women’s legal rights. She got her first teaching position at Rutgers University, where she was paid less than her male counterparts because her husband already had a well-paying job.
Ginsburg went on to a number of other roles in academia, and worked to develop programs to strengthen legal protections for women. She’s credited with making significant advancements for women under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
Former President Carter nominated Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980, where she served until former President Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court in 1993. She was confirmed by a Senate vote of 96-3.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said that she wanted to be remembered “as someone who did whatever she could, with whatever limited talent she had, to move society along in the direction I would like it to be for my children and grandchildren.” I think there can be no doubt that she will be remembered as such, and more. In some ways, this tiny woman stood taller than many of her colleagues. Justice Ginsburg has long been an advocate for justice, for women’s rights, human rights, civil rights and has weighed in on some of the most important cases during her tenure. At another time, I will write about some of these, and how important Justice Ginsburg has been to the development of this nation in the 20th and 21st centuries. But for today, I must unfortunately discuss the potential ramifications of Justice Ginsburg’s death just 46 days before what will arguably be the most consequential election of our lifetime.
You will remember February 13th 2016 when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. With nine months left until the presidential election, President Barack Obama nominated a moderate, Merrick Garland, to fill the seat left vacant by Scalia’s death. However, the Senate, as directed by none other than the unconscionable Mitch McConnell, refused to even interview Garland, let alone hold a confirmation hearing. Why? Well, according to Texas Senator Ted Cruz …
“It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”
Within hours of Scalia’s death, McConnell released the following statement:
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
And yet, tonight, within an hour … a single hour after the news that Justice Ginsburg had died, McConnell said …
“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Amazing how in just four short years he has completely changed his opinion, isn’t it?
Now, we all know that if Trump is allowed to place yet another Justice on the Supreme Court, justice in this nation will become a thing of the past for at least two decades, for it will leave the court heavily weighted in favour of those justices who tend to have conservative ideologies that believe women and minorities do not deserve the same rights as white men. Plain and simple. Call a spade a bloody shovel.
But there’s something even more ominous, I think. Consider this tweet I saw tonight from Robert Reich …
“GOP now arguing Senate must replace Ginsburg now because if the election is litigated, just 8 justices risks a deadlock, and constitutional crisis. Rubbish. Giving a last-minute Trump appointee power to decide whether Trump is the next president would be a constitutional crisis.”
Remember Bush vs Gore back in 2000? A short refresher for those who may not remember.
On November 8, 2000, the Florida Division of Elections reported that Bush won with 48.8% of the vote in Florida, a margin of victory of 1,784 votes. The margin of victory was less than 0.5% of the votes cast, so a statutorily-mandated automatic machine recount occurred. On November 10, with the machine recount finished in all but one county, Bush’s margin of victory had decreased to 327. Florida’s election laws allow a candidate to request a county to conduct a manual recount, and Gore requested manual recounts in four Florida counties. The four counties granted the request and began manual recounts. However, Florida law also required all counties to certify their election returns to the Florida Secretary of State within seven days of the election, and several of the counties conducting manual recounts did not believe they could meet this deadline. Long story short, after much back-and-forth between the Florida Secretary of State, the counties, and ultimately the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ruled in George W. Bush’ favour in an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia.
Now fast-forward to November 4th, the day after the election. Assume that Joe Biden has acquired the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, but not by any major landslide. A difference in just one swing state might change the results. Trump has been screeching about “voter fraud” (a figment of his imagination) for months now and has already broken the law by nearly shutting down the United States Postal Service, making mail-in voting less attractive to many. Imagine if he disputes the vote, demands a recount, and for one reason or another it is left to the Supreme Court to decide. What if Trump has just appointed another boot-licker like Brett Kavanaugh? Can you guess the outcome? I can, and it will no doubt keep me awake tonight.
The nation will miss Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She spent her life powerfully and effectively advocating for America to make good on its promise of equality and opportunity for all. Rest in Peace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg – you have earned it.