By Ricky Browne
The death of US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) on the weekend has added even more grit to the already tense presidential campaign in that country.
It has also brought into greater focus the peculiar justice system that exists in the democratic republic of the United States, where a president may appoint a supreme court judge for life —taking on some elements of a monarchy.
At 87 and dying from pancreatic cancer, RBG held onto her position continuing to make deliberations from her hospital bed, when in most other situations such a person would have been relieved of their position so that they could get their medical treatment in peace.
But because of the great political divide in the United States, such humane considerations are sidelined to instead ensure that the court should have judges of a preferred political persuasion on the bench.
RBG was a particularly important figure to the Democratic party as she was very liberal and took positions that were in keeping with Democratic thoughts on immigration, gender, the death penalty and more.
On the flip side, converting her seat to a Republican-appointed judge would create a court which is more conservative in outlook than its current liberal make-up.
Given that the chances of President Donald Trump winning re-election look to be 50-50 at best, it would be considered extremely important by the Republicans to appoint a new supreme court judge before the November 3rd general election — thereby assuring a conservative court.
Given that these are life-time appointments, it is considered just as important by the Democrats to stave off that appointment until after the presidential inauguration in January, when they hope their candidate Joe Biden will be sworn in.
Arguments about the wall aside, the end result is a kind of Mexican stand-off, where neither side is likely to back down.
The Republicans could conceivably increase their votes if they didn’t appoint a judge now, saying they agree with the Democrats to wait until after the election — but point out that if the Democrats win, it will mean a liberal judge will be appointed, missing this opportunity to create the first conservative court since the 1960s.
But there is not much chance that they will do that. Instead they will try to force through an appointment as quickly as possible, potentially of a judge who will be like RBG in many ways, except in her political views. So look out for a nominee who is highly accomplished, a woman and quite likely Jewish or perhaps black, but who is also probably anti-immigration, anti-abortion and anti same sex marriage.
Such a candidate will make the Democrats twist themselves into pretzels trying to diminish her qualifications or character without appearing to be antisemitic, racist or anti-woman.
The push to get or prevent this candidate on the bench will remove a lot of heat from the actual election campaign and place it instead on this process.
And now we will see the Republicans arguing why a President should be able to appoint a new supreme court judge just before an election — the complete oppostite to the position they took four years ago. And we will also see the Democrats take the opposite position, in complete contrast to their own position four years ago. And both will do it with righteous indignation.
The death of RBG is likely to increase the voter turnout for the Republicans, who will want to grasp this once in a lifetime opportunity to flip the court. As a result, some Republicans who may have thought about sitting out this election due to a dislike of either the President or the overall division in the country, will put aside those considerations and come out to vote.
Unfortunately for the Democrats RBG’s death is less likely to have a positive effect on Democratic voter turnout for the simple reason that they must already be as close to 100 per cent as they can get.eve that the reelection of President Trump would be an overwhelming threat to democracy.
To tackle this the Democrats will have to carefully gauge how they divide their time in preventing a Trump nominee from getting to the Supreme Court, and fighting the election under the coronavirus epidemic.
But conversely, it could be better for the Democrats in their presidential campaign for Trump to get his nominee on the court, as there would then be less fire in the belly for many conservative Republicans to vote for Trump.