by Anika Jain | October 5, 2020
This summer has been extremely eventful, from the pandemic to the horrific acts of racial violence to the fires engulfing the West Coast. But the cherry on top of this quasi-apocalypse is undoubtedly the death of the Notorious RBG—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
We lost Justice Ginsburg on September 18 to metastatic pancreatic cancer after her tenacious tenure on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) for 27 years. A renowned feminist, Justice Ginsburg has been a prominent female role model since the 1970s. She shouldered the fight for many women’s rights and liberties: the right to sign mortgages without a man, the right to have bank accounts without a male co-signer, the right to hold jobs without facing gender-based discrimination, and the right for women to work while pregnant.
“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
RBG lived by her words until the day she died, leaving a legacy as one of the most distinguished Supreme Court Justices in the history of this nation. While I wish I could devote this entire column to Ginsburg’s ferocious battles for women’s rights, I cannot mention the topic of her death without addressing the elephant in the room: Who will fill the vacant spot on SCOTUS, and who will get to decide that?
Back in 2016, when Justice Anthony Scalia died, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, prompting a lot of backlash from conservatives. They believed that the right to appoint the next justice belonged to the next president since President Obama was in his final year as president. Most notably vocal was Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who explicitly stated in 2016, “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’”
Today, left-leaning citizens are indeed using his words against him. In light of the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, Senator Graham has actively shown support for President Trump to make the nomination for Justice Ginsburg’s replacement. He stated, “I will be leading the charge to make sure that President Trump’s nominee has a hearing, goes to the United States Senate for a vote, because that is my job and I believe I am doing what the people of South Carolina want me to do in this regard.”
The hypocrisy of Senator Graham’s statement has angered many progressives, creating a divide over who decides Justice Ginsburg’s replacement. Unfortunately, we live in a world where politics is prioritized over mourning the loss of an eminent leader in our country. No matter what political party one aligns with, we cannot disregard the phenomenal impact of RBG in our country, especially in the fight for gender equality and championship of women’s rights.
The loss of Justice Ginsburg inevitably brings America here, at a crossroads. Currently, President Trump has the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to appoint a conservative justice to replace the leader of the liberal wing on SCOTUS only weeks before Election Day. This would accentuate the Republican majority in the highest court of the U.S. judicial branch, something RBG was very concerned about in her final moments. Just days before her death, she told her granddaughter that her most fervent wish was to not be replaced until after a new president is inaugurated. Unfortunately for her, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, has decided to not honor her wishes and wants to find a new justice as soon as possible.
This turmoil has taken place at a really important turning point in our country, not only because of the upcoming election, but also because the week after the election, SCOTUS will potentially rule on the Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Whatever the outcome, I think we can all agree that the judicial game will be changed forever.