Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and the American presidential election are all but a few weeks ahead. Traditionally, the American presidential election is a time for hope and optimism from across both sides of the floor. This time around it is not the case.
Culture wars have been the second story to the Coronavirus in 2020, and most recently the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has ignited those tensions once again. RBG was an incredibly popular figure globally, and the nomination of her successor has gotten off to a tumultuous start. Ginsberg requested that her seat on the supreme court remained vacant until Americans had the chance to vote in the presidential election. Donald J Trump had other ideas.
But to really understand why both sides of the American political spectrum are anxious over the future of the supreme court, a spotlight must be shone on the woman at the heart of this political storm – Amy Coney Barrett.
Born on the 28th of January 1972 in New Orleans, Amy Coney Barrett was the oldest of seven siblings, and followed her father into the legal profession when she graduated first in her class at the university of Notre Dame in 1997. The divisive figure has been described as religious & regressive, prompting cries of “Gilead” from those on the left wing of American politics.
Since recovering from Covid-19 in the summer, Amy Coney Barrett has been on a rollercoaster that shows no signs of stopping. After the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in September, the topic of the next supreme court justice has been contentious.
The nomination for Ms Coney Barrett was hardly a surprise for those in DC. Highly regarded in the legal profession when partisan politics are put aside, Ms Barrett is long-term academic who is viewed as a great legal mind with strong religious beliefs. In some ways she is the perfect candidate for the incumbent president, Donald Trump.
President Trump is looking to set the chess pieces up around him while he seeks election for another four years as Americas head of state. The president has often criticised the “liberal agenda” and “democrat witch hunt” as sources of obfuscation and obstruction to overcome throughout his first term in office.
If the President wants to make swift changes to American law and really stamp his mark on American history, a conservative supreme court is one way to short circuit his ambitions.
The President reportedly said that he was “saving” Ms Coney Barrett for when the elderly Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, and a vacancy for the 9-man supreme court was opened up. In typical Trump fashion, it did not take long for his opinion and nomination to be known publicly – fast-tracking Ms Barretts’ nomination to the supreme court in just over one week.
The comparison of Amy Coney Barrett ascension to the supreme court and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s tale are somewhat overblown, but for liberals and democrats across the world – there is some cause for concern. At such a polarised moment in American and global history, a strong conservative majority in the USA’s highest court has been met with fierce criticism and firebrand resistance.
Former challenger for the democratic presidential nomination Pete Buttigieg aired his concerns on Fox News this past Sunday. Buttigieg suggested that a strong conservative majority could look to overturn the supreme court’s 2015 decision to legalise same-sex marriage.
Obergefell vs Hodges enshrined same-sex marriage into American law in a landmark 5-4 ruling. The margins were fine on that day, and many fear several lengthy battles could be fought in the next decade over same-sex marriage, birth control, abortion and transexual rights.
Further, Buttigieg believes that pushing through Barrett’s nomination in the midst of the corona virus pandemic and days before the contentious American election sends the wrong message to voters.
“It’s not in the spirit of our constitution, or our legal system, or political system for them to do this,” Buttigieg said. “My marriage might depend on what is about to happen in the Senate with regard to this justice. So many issues are on the line.”
The Republicans are eager to place Barrett in her seat before the November 3rd general election, and it looks likely they will get their way. Last week the senate judiciary committee met formally to push forward President Trumps’ nomination to a full floor vote.
If the floor vote in favour of the Presidents; nomination, the Grand Old Party would create a 6-3 conservative majority, that under the current legislation could last for many years to come. For many Americans, this would be ghoulish and practically inescapable. Not only could liberal causes be set back decades, but advancements made in the Obama era on affordable healthcare could be rolled back in an expedited fashion.
The Democrats rebuttal to Ms Barretts’ supreme court nomination rests in the hands of the American people when they take to the ballot box to elect either Joe Biden or Donald Trump on November 3rd. Republicans are fearful that if America wakes up to a landslide Democrats victory, President Joe Biden could tear up convention and rebalance the court though expansion.
The nine seats of the supreme court of America have been in place since 1869 and making changes to this tradition would be a dangerous gamble for Joe Biden’s early presidency. When asked about the topic of court stuffing in a recent town hall event, Biden remained coy and gave a non-response.
“No matter what answer I gave you, if I say it that’s going to be the headline tomorrow.”
Progressives in the democratic party and left-wing activists are calling on Joe Biden to add seats to court, while others have also argued for term limits to bring about a greater turnover of justices. Biden and his team will be well aware that implementing these controversial changes to American judiciary system could damaging to his reputation, and ineffective in the long term.
If the Republicans were to have a senatorial majority, they could simply refuse to fill the vacant seats a democratic president elected, in anticipation for when a republican candidate took high office. In this scenario, the Republicans could then fill all the seats President Biden created with conservative candidates, making the furore surrounding Amy Coney Barret look like Kindergarten kids squabbling.
Court stuffing could easily lead to a nightmare in waiting for either of America’s great political parties. It could simply be a case of who blinks first.
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