Justice Ginsburg’s Death Opens up a Battle for the Supreme Court


The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left an opening in the Supreme Court. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Her presence in the Supreme Court sent waves of influence throughout the nation. She worked steadfastly to ensure that justice would be executed fairly for all people indiscriminate of gender, race, sexual orientation and religion. Her voice commanded reverence across the aisle as she amplified women’s voices and used her platform to bolster the message of gender equality. Her feet carried her from her hometown in Midwood, South Brooklyn to the Supreme Court, where she would pioneer what it means to serve as a devoted justice for America. Political labels cannot encapsulate the monumental legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On Sept. 18, 2020, the Statue of Liberty bowed her head in profound grief, and America grew silent as it lost one of the most influential voices for justice in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, this silence would erupt into a political explosion as President Trump announced his intention to immediately replace the 27-year veteran of the Supreme Court without delay, despite Ginsburg’s dying wish to be replaced after the presidential election a few weeks away. Regardless, President Trump has shown absolutely no sign of relenting in his push to appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court, leaving Democrats livid and Republicans jubilant. With such unprecedented speed to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, it seems as if President Trump is less concerned with the 27 years Ginsburg has devoted to the Supreme Court, and more concerned with one number: 50.

In less than 50 days, the nation will ultimately decide the face of justice in America, since the nomination and confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice is bound to play a role in the upcoming election. Suppose President Trump and the GOP are successful in confirming their pick, Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch conservative on the subject of women’s rights. In that case, the Democratic Party may find themselves bleeding the momentum they worked so laboriously to build. Even if President Trump were to lose the election, by confirming Barett, the Supreme Court could find itself in conservative leanings for generations to come, hence reversing the progress made by Justice Ginsburg and possibly staggering Democrats before Joe Biden could even win the election. It seems as if Republicans stand to gain more from the process of confirming Barrett, as her confirmation essentially serves as an insurance policy to keep the court conservative, while President Trump continues to trail Biden in the polls.

However, President Trump and the Republican Party are not entirely immune to any potential political damage during this election season. According to 12 polls identified by FiveThirtyEight, 52% of Americans feel that the Supreme Court justice seat should be filled after the election, with only 39% in favor of filling it immediately. This number is not too surprising, as it reflects that the American people are not ready to see such a paradigm shift in terms of the political leaning of the Supreme Court, especially not in the midst of one of the most consequential elections in our nation’s history. Yet with President Trump’s dismissal of this widely embraced sentiment, Americans will likely assume that the president cares less about what is required to maintain justice in the midst of uncertainty and more about quarreling with Democrats,while more than 200,000 American lives have been lost to coronavirus. Additionally, in looking to confirm a new justice without delay, President Trump is exposing a fundamental hole in his argument for law and order. 

In Feb. of 2016, America lost Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Upon his death, which took place during an election year, President Obama sought to confirm a new justice. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell worked prodigiously to block such action, stating that the proposed Supreme Court justice appointment should wait until after the election. The American people should have the ultimate voice as to whom they choose to sit on the bench. In 2020, a sharply different sentiment pervades the political air. President Trump should not be able to appoint a new justice simply because of how big of a flip-flop Republicans have pulled in just one term of a Republican presidency. Democrats have seized at this disparity in judicial appointments with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, calling Mitch McConnell a hypocrite. During an election year, Americans should feel that they can trust their government, and this stark reversal in tone conveys that justice for the American people is being put on the back burner. 

Meanwhile, Republican control of the Supreme Court and the Senate continues to build more now than ever before. Pollings regarding the appointment of a new justice have made it clear that American opinions are changing. Americans no longer want to spend time watching issues of party and power in the courts and the Senate. More than ever, Americans have proven that they are starving for justice.  President Trump’s actions related to the Supreme Court are either going to make this election a savory victory or a bitter defeat.

  However, if the Senate confirms Barrett, Americans may get the sense that the president never understood justice, which would not bode well for his reelection prospects. As more Americans demand justice, they may start looking for a new president.

Noah Osborne, FCRH ’23, is a journalism major from Harlem, N.Y.