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Who would have thought that the death of an 87-year-old judge would change the nightly news and change direction of a presidential election. Such was and is the prominence of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. With just two words, “I dissent,” she had everyone’s attention when she wrote her opinions. She was a justice of great intellect with the passion to move her positions forward. On the issue of women’s rights, she was the inspiration for many women who aspired to be lawyers. She was of physically small stature, but her voice was mighty for what she believed in.
There are two basic interpretations of our Constitution. Originalists believe the words of the Constitution have meaning in and of themselves and the law does not change. Progressives believe the words of the Constitution are fluid and meanings change to reflect the culture of society. Antonin Scalia was an originalist and Ruth Bader-Ginsburg would be the progressive. These two polar opposites in legal viewpoints were the best of friends as were their families. Their opinions were truly a reflection of what a free judiciary should look like. They challenged each other to look deeply into the basics of their beliefs. While they may not have changed the others core beliefs, they allowed the rest of us to understand the differences and implications of the opposing viewpoints. From their legal debates this country grew.
What now? The bottom line answer is political hardball is going to occur. The Democrats are going to say that Senate Majority Leader McConnell stopped Obama’s nominee from even getting a hearing in Obama’s last year of office. That is absolutely true. The Constitution states it is the Senate that is to give advice and consent to the nominee. McConnell simply chose not to give consent, which was his prerogative under the Constitution. When the same party controls both the Senate and the Presidency, it appears that 19 nominations have been made for a Supreme Court Justice and that Justice has been confirmed 17 times. Politicians in power usually try to use that power to advance their agenda, regardless of which party is in power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urges the President and Senate not to consider a new nominee for the Court until after the November elections. Her hope being that the voters will oust Trump and give the Senate a Democratic majority. Speaker Pelosi may be forgetting her very skilled hardball moves in passing Obamacare.
The election cycle has changed. COVID and the economy no longer are center stage in the presidential race. A Supreme Court nominee is literally going to be a major influencer in this election. The news is about how much money the Democrats are now pumping into the elections after the death of Justice Ginsburg, but we should note the Republicans are not holding back their money either. Who Trump nominates may be his greatest political move of this election, or it may be his undoing. Time will tell and we are down to just six weeks.