To the Editor:
John Donne’s poem could not be more prophetic than it is with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg—“ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Her death is a tragedy not only for the loss of a great person, but for the Republic she served so well.
While we grieve, we still have work to do. With apologies to Abraham Lincoln, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which [she]…so nobly advanced.” We need to pay close attention to the next Supreme Court associate justice.
Trump already has announced his plans to nominate a replacement within the week. He has said he will nominate a woman. The two women most touted are Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, both with very strong conservative views—some would say very radical views. McConnell has said he will bring the Senate to a vote immediately. (It is good to see Mitch has finally decided to follow the Constitution, unlike his 2016 “rule.”)
It seems to me that there are a couple of scenarios that could play out in October. The Senate could vote completely on party lines and whomever is nominated will be the new associate justice. There are some questions about whether McConnell has the votes to pull it off. First, there is Mitt Romney, who so dislikes Trump that he may defect. Secondly, there are a number of GOP Senate candidates who are in close races that might want to distance themselves from Trump before the election e.g. Susan Collins or Joni Ernst.
If McConnell fails to get enough votes for the nominee then we have to wait until after the election. If Trump wins then the game is up. Trump will appoint the next associate justice. If Biden wins it seems most likely that Trump would make another nomination. Regardless of how the Senate elections go, the lame duck Senate would no longer have to worry about their own elections and would be most likely to vote along party lines to confirm the nomination.
It pains me to say that I think that the next associate justice of the Supreme Court will be a Trump appointee.
What is there to do? I think that the best we can do is to push every button available to get the least bad nominee and hope she (or he) turns out to be a Souter. Of the two women most talked about I think that Lagoa seems the least doctrinaire. If Trump nominates a man (Would Donald ever renege on a promise?) it would be nice to see him nominate a sitting Senator as he suggested a couple of weeks ago. That at least would put another Senate seat in play.
Some have suggested that if Biden is elected he should “pack” the Court in an attempt to moderate the conservative majority. I think that this is not a good idea. FDR tried it early in his administration and it was a significant failure. Manipulation of the Supreme Court now could lead to a backlash and still would not eliminate the conservative majority.
I think that we must turn our attention to the legislative branch and to our State and local governance. We must look after ourselves and all our fellow citizens if we are to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth….”
Unfortunately Romney has let you down already. We’re betting Barbara Lagoa gets the nod—all those juicy Florida Electoral College votes.
Court packing would indeed be risky. We favor flag-packing. More stars! Welcome, the State of the District of Columbia! Hola, the State of Puerto Rico! The State of American Samoa! The States of North, South, and Central California!