Elect America’s Court

By Antonio Caceres, Staff Writer

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg mere weeks before the 2020 presidential election, a political fight for the future of our judiciary is about to ensue. One of the most consequential decisions that any president can make is an appointment to the United States Supreme Court. It is arguably the most powerful institution in the nation and, by extension, the world. Nine justices, who are chosen by the president and confirmed by the Senate, rule on every important aspect of our political system and shapes our society. 


History has shown that the judiciary often steps in when the other government branches fail to act on a political issue. The Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, a period of judicial liberalism that lasted from 1953 to 1969, resulted in some of the most valuable rulings in American history. The end of racial segregation, readjustment of voting rights, expansion of criminal protections, upholding freedom of speech, and the creation of the right to privacy that would pave the way for the constitutionality of abortion in Roe v. Wade. All of this social progress was met with backlash from conservatives. Rather than accept defeat, however, they started a powerful conservative legal movement that now holds our current Supreme Court hostage.


After Ronald Reagan was elected president, he appointed archconservatives to the Court such as Antonin Scalia, who popularized the theory of originalism, which states that judges should only view the Constitution as its signatories intended — this flawed view disproportionately benefits the straight, the white, and the men who held power when the founding documents were created. Republicans continued to win presidential elections in the latter half of the 20th century and made the vast amount of judicial appointments. However, many of these judges were liberal and moderate Republicans, something that does not exist today. From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, the Supreme Court had seven justices appointed by Republican presidents while only two were chosen by a Democrat. Nonetheless, the Court was balanced evenly between conservatives and liberals.


Under the presidency of George W. Bush, this all changed. Republicans were tired of “squishes,” judges they chose who served as liberals or moderates. The two appointments to the Court made by Bush 43 were staunch right-wingers, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who still serve on the Supreme Court today. It was not until Barack Obama was elected that Democrats could choose justices committed to social equality. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice, and Elena Kagan, the second Jewish female justice after Ruth Bader Ginsburg, maintained the Supreme Court’s balance until 2016. 


Antonin Scalia’s death gave President Obama a third opportunity to nominate a forward-thinking justice. However, Republicans chose to subvert American democracy in denying a single hearing in the Senate to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s choice for the Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the unfounded decision, citing that it was an election year. This disgusting act was an affront to our American political process and trampled our Constitution that conservatives claim to revere. After robbing President Obama of his right to a Supreme Court nominee, Republicans teed up the appointment of Donald Trump’s right-wing choice. Niel Gorsuch was confirmed after Senate rules were changed and lowered the threshold of votes for a successful nomination to the Court; Brett Kavanaugh was barely confirmed under the new regulations a year later.


One of this nation’s greatest legal minds, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died on September 18, 2020. She was a fearless champion of equality for women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community. Just hours after her tragic passing, Mitch McConnell announced he would do everything in his power to fill her seat with another right-wing jurist. Republicans do not care that they refused to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court in 2016 — following precedent is abhorrent to conservatives both on the Court and in Congress. These hypocrites want to seize even more power and expand their conservative majority on the Supreme Court from 5 – 4 to 6 – 3. All the progress achieved through decades of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s activism would be undone. 


We have only one chance to set things right. Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, has made judicial appointments a top priority and has vowed to replace Ginsburg with the first black female justice in our nation’s history. Many progressives have contemplated whether to support a centrist candidate, but these voters do not see the bigger picture. A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for more liberals on the United States Supreme Court. The infiltration of the judiciary by radical conservatives must come to an end.  President Trump has already chosen 25% of the country’s appellate judges, the second-highest courts in America. And if he has his way, 5 of 9 of our Supreme Court justices will have been appointed by presidents who won the White House without the popular vote. The United States will have an unelected judiciary appointed by unelected presidents. 


For years, liberals have been playing catch-up with judicial appointments and have let our opponents seize power in the most crucial government branch. So long as our courts are dictated by young conservative judges who are accountable to no one but the Republican Party, the rights of every kind of minority group are in danger. Our generation and those who follow will be at the mercy of archconservatives who only care about restoring a nation to those who controlled it at its founding: the straight, the white, and the men. We must elect a president who will choose judges who look and act on behalf of everyday Americans. We, therefore, must elect Joe Biden. If we fail, many of our rights will die with Justice Ginsburg.