Following the death of the late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th, the political world has once again erupted into chaos as the Republican party rushes to fill the now vacant seat with Judge Amy Coney Barrett only days before Election Day and faces intense resistance in doing so.
As the nation continues to mourn Ginsburg’s death, it also reflects on the significant impact she had during her time on the Court.
Senior Tristen Hart, president of East’s Political Action Club, said that Ginsburg changed the political landscape by using her voice as a Supreme Court justice for activism in addition to judicial authority.
“She and her fellow justices reminded the American people that the Supreme Court wields tremendous influence in [the] American government and [has] the power to overturn centuries of precedent if they so choose,” Hart said.
Notorious for being a champion of the liberal end of the political spectrum, Ginsburg constantly advocated for all things equality, especially in the field of women’s rights. She successfully co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which proceeded to participate in hundreds of gender discrimination cases, many of which led to new laws closing the gap between men and women.
Senior Teegan Mathey, a member of Political Action Club, said that she worries that Ginsburg’s absence from the Court could affect equal rights cases in the future.
“RBG has been such an advocate for women’s rights and just equal rights in general. To know that with a new nomination we might take several steps back is frustrating,” Mathey added.
With a now empty seat in the Court, President Trump and the Republicans of the Senate are trying to appoint Barrett before the November election, eliciting outcries from thousands of constituents.
A former law clerk for the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and a current law professor at the University of Notre Dame, Barrett has worked her way up through the courts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. These experiences deem her more than qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, but the many conservative rulings she made over the years are a stark contrast to those of Ginsburg’s — a change that not all Americans are ready to accept.
One of the biggest issues in regards to Barrett’s conservatism is the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned. The current ruling of the case gives pregnant women the liberty to have an abortion without excessive interference from the federal government. But since Barrett’s confirmation would solidify a conservative majority on the Court, Roe v. Wade is a likely case to be brought up for debate once again.
As outrage from pro-choice Americans across the country continues to build, AP US Government and Politics teacher Steven Doerrer said that he is hesitant to believe Roe v. Wade will be completely overturned if Barrett is confirmed.
“I just don’t think it’s going to happen. It could be modified, and Roe v. Wade has been modified in the past. Roe v. Wade has been modified with Casey v Planned Parenthood, which is a case from the 80’s,” Doerrer added. “It basically restricted third trimester abortions. So you could have modifications of Roe v. Wade, but to be abolished all together, that’s very unlikely.”
Doerrer continued to explain that while the fear of Roe v. Wade being overturned is real, the chances of it actually happening are low.
“You don’t see a precedent being overturned just on a whim,” Doerrer added.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that while changes to previous rulings are a possibility, there’s a more likely chance that the Supreme Court may not even choose to hear such cases.
AP US Government and Politics teacher Tyler VanLandeghem suggested that the justices of the Court may decide that making no decision at all on such important rulings is the best decision.
“[T]he Court is aware of the world in which they are a member of — a deciding voice on. And they will recognize the implications of that decision more than anyone and they might very well choose to not make a decision,” VanLandeghem said.
Another issue of contention is Barrett’s Catholic faith. The concern outlined by a number of media outlets suggests that Barrett’s faith could play a significant role in the rulings that she could make as a justice of the Supreme Court.
Junior Meghan Walsh is a member of Political Action Club and has been following the events of Barrett’s confirmation.
“I think that you can have your own beliefs, but that shouldn’t impact someone else’s life,” Walsh said.
These frustrations about maintaining a separation of church and state are further reiterated by Mathey.
“Electing someone into the Court that is going to take their religion into such high account when not everyone in the country practices that religion I believe is wrong because you’re acting in the best interest of your church and not in the best interest of the American people, or at least not all of them,” Mathey added.
However, Doerrer said that these issues are arguably overemphasized and not all that validated.
“Every justice brings their own background, their own ideology, and that’s why we’ve got nine of them. That’s why we have the process the way it is,” Doerrer said. “It’s kind of a beautiful thing when you think about the justices on the Supreme Court.”
With Election Day only days away and several Americans already voting through mail-in ballots, Barrett’s nomination has also reignited the debate about appointing Supreme Court justices during election years. In response to her nomination, Democrats have been citing Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s precedent to delay Supreme Court hearings during election years, which was set in their refusal to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.
Mathey added the Republicans’ hypocrisy during Barrett’s nomination has been frustrating but acknowledges that it’s understandable in the context of politics.
“[Another] point of it is that whether I agree with it or not, politics is a game. And Mitch McConnell, no matter how morally wrong I think a choice is, [is] playing the game well because he’s trying to benefit his own party. He’s not against his bounds to do what he’s doing,” Mathey said.
When it comes to politicians playing the right cards to benefit their own party, Hart shared a similar sentiment, indicating that what the Republicans appear to be doing in 2020 is precisely what Democrats perhaps should have done back in 2016.
“I do see where it presents an issue of consistency amongst the Republican senators,” Hart said. “I recognize where okay, that’s inconsistent and immoral of them but they are well within their right to do so. I think that’s what they should’ve done in 2016 and I’m glad they’re doing it now.”
Hart continued to say that this shift in power is natural and should be expected.
“A great analogy I’ve heard is that American politics is often like a pendulum… And what we’re seeing is that pendulum shifting. We got eight years of Obama — eight years of the pendulum being very far to the left. And for the last four years, we’ve been swinging right,” Hart said.
He also added that as the pendulum swings farther to one side, the country becomes increasingly polarized. Hart believes that given time, such periods of conflict will dissipate.
“Periods of polarization inherently come with periods of unity and right now we just happen to be in a period of very high polarization. I think given time, things will die down. We just have to ride out the storm. We need to remember that while we may disagree on issues politically as a country, we may have different views on how to get to the end goal,” Hart said.
VanLandeghem explained that this theme of unity despite our different beliefs was meant to be at the core of American politics. He references Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who, when they served, were the most conservative and liberal justices on the Supreme Court. Even after intense arguments over policy and beliefs regarding constitutionality, the two remained the best of friends.
“[I]t’s sad to me that those two people demonstrated how America should function politically but the deaths of both of them have led to such political fights in the Court — an institution that is supposed to be apolitical has turned into such a political battleground when those two people demonstrated what we’re supposed to be,” VanLandeghem said.
Barrett’s confirmation vote is set for today, Monday, October 26th.
Samantha Anderson and Sriya Veeramachaneni are staff writers for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl