Holitza: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death could mean trouble for Democrats

Mason Holitza

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.
 

Civil rights activist and feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away Friday evening at the age of 87, surrounded by family, in her Washington home. The long-standing icon of justice passed away as a result of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

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With the election looming large, her death, unfortunately, carries a significant weight. Her death could mean we will see one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in history, leaving Democrats questioning if important Supreme Court cases could be overturned.

woman wearing robe sits in chair
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Jan. 6, 2016. (Photo courtesy of the Supreme Court of the United States via Wikimedia Commons)

This affects more than just the general public. As college-aged students, a conservative Supreme Court has the ability to affect us tremendously because Democrats are usually more in favor of large student loan debt forgiveness. A conservative Supreme Court likely won’t pass laws that help students to the extent they need it or in the way Democrats were pushing. 

One question is whether or not Senate Republicans can push through a nomination by President Donald Trump after aggressively resisting and eventually turning down the nomination of Justice Merrick Garland in 2016, their argument at the time being that former President Barack Obama should not be allowed to install a new judge until a new president had been elected.  

However, for now, the nation is in a collective state of mourning and respect for a woman who truly brought change to our country. Her perseverance and passion for equality has personally impacted millions of marginalized Americans. A fervent feminist icon and a defender of young women everywhere, she was a true American hero.

I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.” -Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In 1980, she was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by former President Jimmy Carter. This paved her path to the Supreme Court, receiving a nomination from former President Bill Clinton for a seat at the highest of courts in 1993. She was a part of some truly landmark cases; one of the most significant Ginsburg cases in recent memory is the vote to legalize gay marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges case of 2015. She was an advocate for equality, and she upheld her constitutional duty with pride and passion.

Sen. Mitch McConnell has already made it clear that he has no disparities when it comes to voting Trump’s nominee through as soon as possible. It would be a massively controversial decision, and their intentions have already been widely denounced as immoral and hypocritical by many on both sides of the isle.

“I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican Conference in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president,” McConnell’s scolding statements read, according to NPR, on the nomination of Garland in 2016.

Senator and leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham stated that he would like his own words used against him. So, Sen. Graham, let’s let the next president make that nomination. 

It is important to note that Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, nine months from the election. Ginsburg died less than two months from one, making the words of McConnell justifiably upsetting. He is demonstrating his apathy toward honesty. It seems that he doesn’t hesitate to go back on his own principles for the sake of the “strength of the party.” 

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So what can Republicans actually do? With the election less than two months away, they have the power to nominate and vote on a new candidate almost immediately. All they need is a majority vote on the Senate floor. There is very little standing in the way of a right-wing majority in the Supreme Court.

This is a scary reality because it means that decades of progressive rulings may be overturned and progress could be set back — potentially all the way back to Roe. v. Wade in 1973, the landmark case that defined a female’s right to choose to have an abortion. 

Without the strong advocacy from Ginsburg and a potential loss of a liberal majority in the Supreme Court, the future seems bleak, but there are options for those across the aisle. 

The Senate would only need four Republicans to oppose the nomination for it to not pass. 

There is also a scenario that has been discussed by Democratic lawmakers if the worst were to happen and Trump were to push through his nominee, but Democrats manage to come out of the election with a majority: “If the GOP goes forward with trying to fill the seat this year, regardless of the election result, I think there is a substantial likelihood … that the Democrats will respond with court-packing the next time they get a chance,” said Ilya Somin, George Mason University law professor, via e-mail to NPR. This form of court packing has been considered before but was rejected for fear of Republican retaliation in the future.

Here in Colorado, our resident Republican senator, Cory Gardner, is up for reelection in November, which could potentially influence his actions surrounding whether or not to vote in favor of appointing Trump’s nominee.

This is where CSU students can personally make a difference. Gardner happens to have an office here in Fort Collins and leaving a message at your senator’s office is one of the best ways to get involved.

You can reach Gardner at his Fort Collins office at: (970) 484-3502

You can also reach his office in Washington, D.C., at: (202) 224-5941

Mason Holitza can be reached at letters@collegian.com. or on Twitter @MHolitza.