What’s Left: The Conservative Capture of the Supreme Court

Last Friday, Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell did not even wait a day to confirm what we all feared was going to happen — Republicans were going to go forward with a nomination of a new Supreme Court justice with only 38 days until the Presidential election. With the nomination and confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice there would be a conservative majority of 6-3 in the court. This conservative majority could kill the Affordable Care Act, could overturn Roe v. Wade, could deport the dreamers and worst of all, could decide who wins the 2020 Presidential election. Just when you thought 2020 could not get worse…

For those of us who still remember the months leading up to the 2016 election, Mitch McConnell was vehemently opposed to the nomination of a Supreme Court justice during an election year back then. In what may be one of the most hypocritical flip-flops in American history, Mitch McConnell now has no issue confirming a Supreme Court Justice during an election year. McConnell justified this flip-flop by arguing that his fake standard from 2016 only applied to election years where the President and the Senate were controlled by different parties (Mitch McConnell press release from Sept. 18). Let me be as clear as possible — there are no limits in the Constitution that state when a Supreme Court justice can or cannot be nominated. Any nomination standard or “rule” brought forth by Mitch McConnell or any other politician is partisan garbage. So yes, the Democrats who are now applying McConnell’s 2016 standard to 2020 are not doing themselves a favor. These standards are meaningless; Republicans showed us that much this week. In the future, every Supreme court nomination, regardless of the party in control, should get a vote in the Senate. Period.

On Sept. 26, President Trump announced that his nominee is Judge Amy Coney Barrett from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Barrett is known for her conservative stances on abortion, the affordable care act and same-sex marriage. Judge Barrett is also known for being a member of the Christian religious group the “People of Praise” in South Bend, Indiana. According to the New York Times, the members of this group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty to one another, members are “assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women” and “the group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.” Republicans literally want to replace RBG, a feminist icon, with a woman who believes men should control women’s lives. Religious extremism, regardless of the religion itself, should be regarded cautiously, especially when it comes to appointing a person to a lifetime position where her decisions will affect the lives of every single woman in this country. These are not light matters and her confirmation process should at the very least address these concerning ties.

There is no question that Republicans will likely confirm her before the election takes place. Therefore, now is the time to fight fire with fire. Democrats must use this momentous defeat as a lesson; we must not allow procedural rules or false norms created by politicians to get in the way of governance. When Vice President Joe Biden wins the 2020 election, Democrats will abolish the filibuster and if the conservative Supreme Court gets in the way of enacting his progressive agenda, then-President Joe Biden will threaten the courts with court packing. If court-packing is not widely supported among Democrats, other limits on the judiciary should be considered. Potentially enacting term limit for Supreme Court justices could also ensure that this conservative majority isn’t there for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, make sure you are registered to vote because this election just got more consequential. We cannot allow the Republican party to destroy this country as we know it. Repay the Republican’s hypocrisy and spinelessness with a vote for Democrats come this November.