The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will do what nothing else has done in recent months: recalibrate the 2020 presidential election.
The growing number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. has been met with shrugs across the country; the data have merely strengthened the camps in which Americans find themselves.
The accusation made this week by a former model that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her was a major story, an exclusive in fact, in a British newspaper. It generated little interest in the U.S. Even if it had, no one would have used it in a conversation about how people will vote in November.
Likewise, reports that women held in detention centers were being forced to have hysterectomies didn’t alter the political calculus.
But Justice Ginsburg’s death will.
If, as I already have predicted, Republicans support any effort by President Trump to get a replacement for Ginsburg rammed through the Senate before the election, America’s judicial shift to the right will be significant. It would mean the president had appointed three justices in four years.
Considering Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to let President Obama nominate a justice in the final year of his presidency, in 2016, the double standard in allowing Trump to do just that will be especially onerous.
No amount of screaming that McConnell is a snake — or some similar language — will mean anything; he, too, would have his strengthened his vision for the country.
Because of Ginsburg’s passing, Democrats will be further emboldened to get out the vote in November. They know a Trump re-election would almost certainly mean at least one other justice appointment and the demise of the Affordable Care Act sometime between 2021 and 2024. Roe v Wade also would be under legitimate threat. A host of other policies supported by the left — everything from unions to limits on gun rights — would be imperiled in a second Trump term.
Republicans, too, will remind their supporters that the America they envision is so very close to being realized with yet another justice. Under the radar federal judicial appointments by Trump alongside any successes in the states to “Make America Great Again” would be realized under Trump between 2021 and 2024.
The voters might not be able to stop Sen. McConnell from any unethical act in the coming days, but they could set the stage for Democrats, if Joe Biden is elected and if Democrats take control of the Senate in January, to increase the size of the Supreme Court in the coming years.
A Supreme Court of, maybe, 15?
However vulgar such an action appears, it’s no different than what McConnell has done. By saying no in 2016 and yes in 2020, he, too, would be responsible for two of those new conservative justices.
A Supreme Court of 15 would seem inconsistent with American democracy. But Trump, McConnell and the Republicans haven’t shown any fealty to American principles over the past few years. Why should the Democrats hold their fire, so to speak, if they can control of the levers of government?
Yes, Justice Ginsburg’s passing might be the single most important event in 2020. What follows from it could alter America more noticeably than coronavirus, the treatment of immigrant women or anything else might.