Ruth Bader Ginsburg (LaPresse)

RBG’s Death and the 2020 Election

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18 has shaken up the 2020 election and is sure to plunge an already dramatic election year into a raging political firestorm. Already dealing with riots, massive forest fires, economic problems and a global pandemic, the United States now faces an election that might actually be the most important in many people’s lifetimes — and not just in the way that the line has been previously employed for the sake of political rhetoric to get voters to the polls.

A conservative replacement will be appointed soon. US President Donald Trump will reportedly nominate a woman to SCOTUS this coming week.

RBG’s Record

Ginsburg took her seat on SCOTUS in 1993 under President Bill Clinton and served there almost three decades. She was often part of the dissenting opinions as conservatives held a 5-4 voting majority for many years, bolstering the image of her as a feisty fighter and underdog.

RBG was a committed progressive who was staunchly in favor of abortion rights and legislating for increased labor protections and rights protections for women and minorities. Her dissenting opinions became well-known for their fiery conviction about gender equality, including landmark rulings on a women’s right to administer estates and get survivor benefits when their husband died.

Cases such as these and more made RBG into a feminist and progressive icon as she rose up the ranks and became prominent in the national eye.

Who Will Trump Pick?

Trump will most likely select Barbara Lagoa or Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant SCOTUS seat. Both picks have various advantages. Both are socially conservative, devout Catholics, but there are some compelling reasons in favor of each from the right-wing perspective.

Barrett works for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago since being put there by Trump in 2017 and previously clerked for Justice Scalia. She’s a former law professor who is believed to be committed to overturning landmark abortion ruling Roe vs. Wade. 

Lagoa has more judicial experience than Barrett and was put on the 3rd District Court of Appeals by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2006. She moved to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th District in 2019 under orders from Trump. Lagoa is conservative, but is not as strongly opinionated on Roe vs. Wade. As a Cuban-American from Miami, however, she could also help solidify Trump’s growing support among Hispanic Americans and help him win the key state of Florida.

Left characterizations of Barrett as a “Catholic extremist” tend to tip the scales in favor of her being chosen by Trump. Furthermore, choosing Barrett would allow Trump to jeopardize much of the media and Democratic party’s emphasis on Biden’s Catholic faith. Is Hunter Biden also a “Catholic extremist” for having a large family? Is Biden a “good Catholic” for being liberal but Barrett is a “bad Catholic”? These are exactly the kind of litmus tests that will further sink the already disastrously falling support for Democrats among Hispanics and other portions of the electorate.

Republicans Want to Fill RBG’s Seat ASAP

Trump is promising that RBG’s seat will be filled quickly, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to confirm Trump’s appointee, although there’s no guarantee that will happen before election day on November 3. In order to confirm the pick the Republicans would have to be singularly unified without losing more than three party member confirmation votes.

Senators do not like being pressured on SCOTUS appointees and generally like to take their time to make a lifetime appointment to the vitally important court, and there’s a chance that the GOP could lose more votes than it could afford from Senators who are already finishing up their political career anyway, don’t support the pick, and don’t care any longer about the political suicide of not voting to confirm a new conservative justice.

Regardless, progressive fury at the perceived Republican hypocrisy will be intense. President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in the spring of 2016 was declined by the Republican-controlled Congress who insisted that the presidential election must be finished before a SCOTUS nomination could move forward. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch was put in the seat in 2017.

McConnell wouldn’t move forward then on the other party’s pick, but he will now on his own party’s selection.

This should not surprise anyone, particularly as federal politics has slid into an all-out brawl in the past few years and Democratic tactics have become increasingly intense and gloves-off as they seek to oust Trump from office. There is no reason to expect the GOP to play fair or adhere to standards of political civility at this point.

Biden has already emphasized that the nomination should not take place until this presidential election is decided, but has declined to put out a list of who he would potentially nominate were he to become president. It is also possible that Democrats will put through some legislation to make it easier to pass laws in the Senate and allow them to possibly expand the Supreme Court and end the impending Republican power play.

More Possible Choices to Replace Ginsburg

Although reports say Trump has narrowed it down to Barrett or Lagoa, other women on the shortlist include Bridget Bade from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Martha Pacold from the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Sarah Pitlyk from the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, deputy White House counsel Kate Todd, Joan Larsen of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Britt Grant of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and Allison Jones Rushing of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

It is always possible that Trump will go with one of these women instead, as he is known for his unpredictability and has already changed his mind on a SCOTUS pick, having previously remarked he’d put Senator Ted Cruz in but recently announcing that it will be a woman instead.

Political Calculus

The Republicans could have held off on naming a replacement in order to further intensify the election and boost evangelical and socially conservative turnout. Making the 2020 election a referendum on Roe vs. Wade and whether the GOP would get the chance to put a conservative on the bench under a re-elected President Trump would have strongly enthused many right-leaning voters.

However, naming a replacement now has several advantages for the GOP. Firstly it can be seen as another feather in Trump’s cap and another win for voters to reflect on when they cast their ballot. Secondly, the Democratic party and left-leaning electoral meltdown that is sure to come as a replacement is named and vetted will likely provide unrest, dramatic rhetoric and behavior that will actually decrease support for the Democrats in crucial swing states and boost Republican voter turnout.

RBG’s reported statement prior to her death that she wishes above all that a replacement not be appointed until a new president is “installed” will further inflame angry progressives and intensify their threats and accusations of rank hypocrisy from Republicans for their previous refusal to allow Garland to proceed forward onto SCOTUS.

Various celebrities and establishment liberal figures have already made outlandish and possibly illegal statements inciting violence and promising that they’ll die before they allow the GOP to put in a replacement for RBG and “burn the entire f–ing thing down,” in the words of TV host Reza Aslan, for example.

What’s Next?

If Trump nominates Barrett the media and national uproar will be considerable. The hearings will be intensely partisan and bitter, but the election would be clearly tipped in Trump’s favor. Even a less contentious pick than Barrett is likely to result in a meltdown by coastal elites and progressives. Look for late night talk shows and other broadcast mediums for coastal folks to go absolutely bonkers, and don’t be surprised to see increased street-level agitation and unrest.

The United States is now in the unenviable position of melting down over race relations and politics with a contentious Supreme Court hearing on the horizon. No matter what happens, the death of RBG is likely to go down as a pivotal point in US history and what comes next is likely to be dramatic on the political and popular level.

Trump got a major boost in 2016 with the chance to fill the Supreme Court with a conservative justice, and his later appointments of Gorsuch to replace Scalia and Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy helped bring many evangelicals and social conservatives over to his side and see him as a winner who gets things done. The death of RBG is likely to be what wins Trump the 2020 election and assists his administration in reshaping the federal bench to become more conservative across the board.