Op-Ed: The Great Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Has Created a Political Fire Storm

By Dan Gaiewski || Contributing Writer

I identify as a white Christian heterosexual male who happens to be a very proud member of the Democratic Party. Sometimes people will look at me and say how are you a liberal? Well, my principles and upbringing are a significant factor, but I also very much enjoy defying the stereotypes of members of the Democratic Party. Like so many other Americans on the evening of Friday, September 18th, 2020 I was devastated by the loss of the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her impact on American life will be unforgettable, everlasting, and inspirational. The tributes to her we have already witnessed are well deserved and have shown her to be a champion of the Women’s Rights Movement, truly living up to her nickname: the Notorious RBG. But the death of the “Notorious RBG” has created a political firestorm and is already showing the worst of American politics.

Supreme Court and Federal Judicial vacancies are held in high regard, as they are lifetime appointments which have long-lasting impacts on the nation’s politics. In February 2016 Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died 269 days before Election Day. President Obama then nominated Judge Merrick Garland as Scalia’s replacement. However, even before Obama named his nominee, the Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell in a joint statement with fellow Republican Senator Chuck Grassley declared, “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. […] It is today the American people, rather than a lame-duck president whose priorities and policies they just rejected in the most-recent national election, who should be afforded the opportunity to replace Justice Scalia.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed just 46 days before the election with the last wish that her replacement be nominated after the upcoming election. Wouldn’t you think Senator McConnell would honor the wishes of the Notorious RBG, stand by his word, and continue the precedent he set? Wrong. In a statement regarding the replacement, he said, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” The hypocrisy and disrespect shown here are unbelievable. Mitch McConnell would not allow a vote on a Supreme Court Nominee from a Democratic President with 269 days until election day, but he will let it come from President Trump with 46 days until the election. McConnell has created a double standard. His fellow Republicans know this, but enough of them will get in line to vote to confirm the nominee. Actions like McConnell’s are why many Americans hate politicians; time and time again, they only show they are in it for themselves. McConnell is currently taking the party of Lincoln and making it the party of self-interests. 

Democrats, although in the minority, do have options. I warn Republicans, if Democrats gain control of the Senate and win the Presidency in 2020, nothing is stopping them from retaliating against your behavior in 2021. The first option would be to increase the number of justices allowed on the Supreme Court. This would be in sense “packing” the court with liberal justices and helping sway outcomes of cases to benefit the Democratic Party’s agenda in the Court. Another option would be for Democrats to make Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico— historically liberal territories—states and potentially add 4 new Democratic Senators, making it harder for Republicans to gain control. As a member of the Democratic Party, I would love to see Republicans suffer the consequences for how they have acted the past 6 years. However, I do realize that the Democrats’ potential options could be dangerous and may not in the best interest of the country. I advise my party to consider all options and potential outcomes before acting on the final decision regarding the issues of expanding the Supreme Court and adding new states to the union.

Mitch McConnell’s actions regarding the vacancy on the Supreme Court will only add toxicity to the already incredibly divided Washington. I fear that the days of confirming Justices like Scalia (confirmed with 98 votes out of 100) and Ginsburg (confirmed with 96 votes out of 100) are gone. Justices used to be approved with bipartisan support. Now they are mostly approved on party lines. Scalia, an arch-conservative, and Ginsburg, a staunch liberal, were able to foster the consensus surrounding their fairness. Now, the Presidential appointment and Senate Confirmation have completely politized the confirmation process. The Supreme Court and the federal judiciary as a whole should be a politics-free institution, as it is the only branch of Government that is not elected as a loyal representative of a political party. 

An independent, non-political judiciary is critical for Democracy to thrive because it ensures the Legislative and Executive Branches, both politically elected, do not overstep the Constitution to push forth partisan agendas. Also, it is necessary for the protection of our freedoms and rights as Americans. The Democratic and Republican Parties should balance one another. Democrats should make sure Republicans don’t go too far right, and Republicans should make sure Democrats don’t go too far left. The current politics surrounding the Supreme Court are disgusting. We should brace ourselves for politics at its worst when the next vacancy occurs  at least another decade from now. 

I ask our elected leaders to do what is right for their country and not what is right for their self-interest.  If they do what is in their self-interest, they will be held accountable at the polls the next time they seek re-election. The great citizens of the United States of America remember everything. I hope our current elected officials from both parties remember this in the decision regarding the vacancy on the Supreme Court. If not, they may go down as just another despised politician in American history. 

Sophomore Dan Gaiewski is a contributing writer, his email is dgaiewski@fandm.edu.

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