With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a seat on the Supreme Court is up for grabs, and with it the potential outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. Many voters are now left wondering: What recourse is left for the Democratic Party?
As of Saturday, President Donald Trump chose Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee. Barrett, who is a Notre Dame law professor, has expressed criticisms of Supreme Court decisions upholding Obamacare and the landmark ruling on Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Trump also recently announced his intentions to invalidate the “unsolicited millions of ballots” sent by mail, declaring he would need nine justices on the High Court in order to do so. In other words, he would ask his new conservative court to invalidate an election in his favor.
These updates strike fear in the hearts of many Democratic voters. Even more, we are now staring down the barrel of a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court, an imbalance which could alter the next few decades of United States legislation.
Days before her death, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s granddaughter told POLITICO that Ginsburg’s “most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Many were outraged, then, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday night that the Senate would vote on President Trump’s nominee.
“I’m sickened by GOP hypocrisy,” said Dylan Locke, a USC senior studying theatre, citing McConnell’s refusal to proceed with a vote for former President Barack Obama’s nominee back in 2016.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said in 2016. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Many voters are now left wondering what the Democrats will do to prevent this outcome. “Packing the Court” has come up in conversations –– an FDR-era piece of legislation that would allow Congress to increase the size of the Supreme Court, effectively evening out the imbalance. But Arthur Auerbach, a Political Science professor at USC, seemed less than convinced by the idea.
“I think there would be a lot of pushback with increasing the size of the court,” Auerbach said. “Even to the point where there could be a constitutional amendment to fix it in time. Which there probably should be, to be totally honest.”
Talks of a second impeachment trial have also been floating around Washington, which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has reportedly refused to rule out. When asked about the plausibility of such a plan, Auerbach bluntly stated, “I don’t even know what she was talking about.”
“It sure wouldn’t help the Dems to go back down that road,” Auerbach added. “It starts to look like a sore loser when you start to do this, short of new allegations.”
Another worry for Democrats, especially with Barrett as the nominee, is whether Roe v. Wade could be overturned by a new conservative court. Auerbach was, again, unconvinced.
“I don’t think John Roberts would overturn that precedent. I don’t know if Neil Gorsuch would,” he said. Both of these conservative justices would need to uphold the ruling in order for it to survive.
“I think it’s wrong to suggest just because a Republican president puts a nominee on the High Court that the nominee will always vote in a conservative fashion,” Auerbach said. “Justices are not political pawns, as much as Donald Trump would love them to be.”
While this situation brews much dread and uncertainty for some liberal voters, others find it pointless to view the future with dread without having a plan to take concrete action moving forward. Simply submitting to whatever comes next shows performativity, as well as a lack of empathy for RBG’s death said Chi Aziza, a USC student studying theatre.
“I think that most people, when they saw that RBG died, their first thought was, on no, now Trump is going to replace her, or oh no, we lost this tool we get to use in our politics,” Aziza said. He referenced the people who flocked to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. the night of Ginsburg’s death.
“If you really care about it,” he said, “I better see you out there again, physically putting your body in between what you believe to be fascism and what you believe to be democracy.”
Whatever happens next, Professor Auerbach remains optimistic about the democratic institutions of this country.
“At the end of the day, I believe in this country,” he said. “And I think we will persevere. This country is not about one personality. It’s not about Donald Trump. It’s about the American people. And I really believe at the end of the day, American people will choose wisely.”