We Must Protect RBG: Why Flipping the Senate Ensures a Balanced Court
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
"When I am asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked, But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that” -RBG (1).
If you’re reading this, you most likely have heard that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon, has had a recurrence of pancreatic cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Scarily, this is her fifth instance of cancer. She has had three recurrences within the past two years. However, RBG, as she has been coined by the liberal masses, has assured all that she is doing well and the treatment is yielding positive results. She reminded everyone that she has “often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that” (2). I know I speak for many when I say how thankful I am for her passion, dedication being a jurist, fighting spirit, and fiery dissents.
As a staunch supporter of women’s and minority rights throughout her entire life, RBG is a strong representative and constant of the current liberal minority of the Supreme Court. She truly fights for equal rights for all. Because of her role in the liberal minority, her health declining during a Trump presidency and a Republican led Senate is something that is to be taken seriously.
This somewhat explains why progressives all over the country are quick to worry when upsetting news about RBG’s health is disclosed. That being said, there is a toxic discussion that comes along with it. These tweets from reporter Laura Bassett and president of The Appeal Josie Duffy Rice sum up what I’m trying to explain quite nicely (3, 4).
This fear of losing RBG highlights the insanely high stakes of this election. It serves as yet another reason why elections matter: The Supreme Court and its nomination and confirmation process. It seems like an underrated power of the US Senate that it has the ability to confirm nominees to federal courts, including the Supreme Court. Article 2, Section 2 of the US Constitution gives the president the power to nominate a candidate for a vacancy on the Supreme Court and the Senate the power to confirm or reject that nominee. Usually, presidents confer with senators before announcing their nominee because of the political capital that can be lost with a failed nomination attempt (5). However, once a nominee is sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a public hearing, it becomes up to our Senators to decide whether that person deserves a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.
As many people witnessed during Justice Kavanaugh’s hearings, these are long, controversial, and stir up public opinion. And rightly so, we are talking about a position on the judicial body that decides so much of our rights as citizens. Whether same-sex marriage is legal, whether women deserve the right to an abortion, etc. The ideological balance of the Court is an important issue. Currently, there is a 5-4 conservative majority on the Court. You’ll notice that every member of the conservative bloc is a man who was nominated by a Republican president. Meanwhile, every member of the liberal bloc was nominated by a Democrat and three of the four are women (6).
President Trump was able to nominate and get two conservative justices confirmed in his first term. Justice Gorsuch was nominated because the Republican-led Congress blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for over eight months until the election. The fear for liberals across America is that if something were to happen to RBG before November, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and President Trump would slam through a third nominee and confirmation as quickly as possible. He would replace Justice Ginsburg with a conservative judge and the ideological center of the Court would shift even further to the right - giving the conservative justices a solid 6-3 majority.
This underlies the importance of not only the presidential election, but also many Senate races. A simple majority of 51 Senators is needed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed with a tiny majority of 50-48. Justice Gorsuch won his confirmation 54-45 (7). It is plain to see that Democrats must win back the White House and Senate in order to protect the ideological balance of the Supreme Court. There are some incredible Democratic women running for seats of Senators who voted “yea” on putting both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the bench.
These women would protect an ideological balance on the Supreme Court by voting with their values and an understanding of what the Supreme Court and judicial branch as a whole is meant to do. Click their names to learn more about who they are and what they are fighting for. In the meantime, here is a bit more about their Republican opponents.
Urban planner Theresa Greenfield is running in Iowa to replace Senator Joni Ernst, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and helped lead the hearings for and confirm both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh (8, 9). As recently as July 17, 2020, Ernst announced that the Senate should hold hearings immediately on any Supreme Court nomination President Trump might make this year - even if he loses the election (10).
Veteran Amy McGrath is running in Kentucky for Leader Mitch McConnell’s seat. As a six-term Senator who has been majority leader for the last three Congresses, he holds far too much power. Aside from being a Trump lackey, McConnell was instrumental in blocking President Obama’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court Justice (8,9 ).
State House Speaker Sara Gideon is battling against Senator Susan Collins to become one of Maine’s Senators (8, 9). Collins infamously voted along partisan lines for Justice Kavanaugh despite the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford. She called Kavanaugh “innocent” (11).
Former Air Force pilot MJ Hegar is a Texas Democrat running to beat three-term Senator John Cornyn (8, 9). Cornyn is a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and compared Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony to the McCarthy hearings while attacking the sexual assault claims as baseless and disrepsectful to Brett Kavanaugh (12).
Dr. Barbara Bollier is running for an open seat in Kansas as current Republican Senator Pat Roberts retires. She is running against Republican challenger Kris Kobach who has been a strong supporter of President Trump since day one (8, 9).
The stakes have never been higher. Voting these Senators out of office and voting in Democratic women who will be fair, honest, and uphold their duty in any future Senate confirmation must be elected. RBG is fighting incredibly hard for her health so she can continue to be a leader for liberals in the interpretation of law; she understands that much more than the next four years hangs on this election. We must acknowledge this too, with our vote.
The future of the Court for decades is on the ballot this November. Let’s elect women that understand the privilege of confirming a Supreme Court nominee. Women who understand the deep importance of an ideologically balanced Court. Let’s go.