Sophie Corbett is a journalism sophomore and a Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an iconic political figure and a champion for gender equality. She was the second woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court of the United States and throughout her 27 years there, she selflessly served our country. As the nation mourns her death, many are concerned about who will replace her. President Donald Trump has already announced that he will be nominating somebody shortly, causing controversy as we are in election season. Before she died, Ginsburg relayed her dying wish to her granddaughter: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Despite President Trump already declaring her dying wish to be a hoax, Republicans should honor her legacy and our country by allowing whoever is elected in the 2020 presidential election to nominate her replacement.
Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016
In Feb. 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, leaving a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Just hours after Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that due to the fact that 2016 was an election year, the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court appointment and that the nominee should be decided by whoever won the 2016 election. President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the vacancy, but he was never confirmed because the Republican-controlled Senate refused to. The Republicans left the United States with only eight Supreme Court Justices for a year. Thus, it was President Donald Trump who filled the vacant seat, nominating Neil Gorsuch just weeks after taking office.
The hypocrisy of the Republican Party
Now, four years later, all but a few Republicans are taking a very different stance on Supreme Court nominations during an election year. Less than two months before the election, the same Republicans who were fervently opposed to the nomination of Merrick Garland are pushing for Trump to nominate somebody as quickly as possible to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. In a statement posted to his twitter account, Mitch McConnell stated, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” and that the Republican party will keep their promise to “work with President Trump and support his agenda.” Many other Republicans who were opposed to Garland in 2016 are now following suit.
During a Senate meeting in 2016, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “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 that might be, make that nomination. And you can use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.” Well, Senator Graham, I’m using your words against you.
I understand that this is politics and each party wants to push their own agenda, but it is obvious in this scenario, a commitment to democracy and the American people has gone completely out the window. The Republican party is trying to justify their position by claiming that the rules are different now because in 2016 we had a Democratic president and a Republican majority in the Senate. Having a Republican-controlled Senate at the same time as a Republican president shouldn’t matter. Blocking Obama’s nomination eight months before the presidential election, but allowing and encouraging Trump to nominate somebody just two months before the election is hypocrisy at its finest.
Why college students should care
To put it lightly, appointing someone to the Supreme Court is a huge deal. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, which means many of them will sit on the Supreme Court for 20 or 30 years — a very long time to be in such a position of power in this country. Most of us are in our 20s now, but, if confirmed, Trump’s nominee could be sitting on the Supreme Court well into our 40s and 50s. Prior to Ginsburg’s death, the Supreme Court consisted of five justices nominated by Republican presidents, and four justices nominated by Democratic presidents. This was a relatively balanced court, meaning that even though there was a conservative majority, the Justices didn’t always decide cases purely on ideology.
If Trump’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, then Justices with a more conservative ideology will have a six to three majority. A conservative court will be making decisions about women’s reproductive rights, healthcare, gun control and many other important issues for years to come. Many of my friends, myself included, are particularly concerned that a conservative court will overturn Roe v. Wade, which has protected a woman’s right to choose whether or not she gets an abortion for almost 50 years. In addition, Obamacare could be repealed, leaving Americans with limited healthcare options.
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, at some point, the Supreme Court is going to make decisions about issues you care about, and if confirmed, Trump’s nominee will play a significant role in that.
To be clear, if the roles were reversed and it was the Democrats who tried to squeeze in a last-minute appointment during an election year when they previously blocked a Republican president for doing that, I would have the exact same criticisms. It’s not the fact that Trump is nominating somebody for the Supreme Court, it’s the fact that he’s going to do it two months before he potentially gets voted out of office, knowing that this singular decision will dramatically affect our country for decades to come. If Trump is re-elected in November, then it is fully within his power to nominate somebody. It’s not about being a Republican or Democrat. It’s not about Trump or Biden. It’s about being fair to the American people. Republicans should do the right thing and hold off on confirming a nomination until after the election.