Notorious CMC: Ruth Bader Ginsburg tribute


When discussing national politics, it’s easy to forget the effect political affairs can have on our lives—despite concerns over Trump’s policies, few students have been directly impacted by them in the last four years. That’s why the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal icon who laid the foundations of women’s rights, was a rude awakening for many. With her seat in the Supreme Court empty, rights and privileges we’ve taken for granted are on the chopping block, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Whenever there’s a vacancy in the Supreme Court, the president is the one who nominates a justice to fill it. However, custom dictates that if this seat opens up in an election year, the Senate waits until after the new president takes office to confirm the appointee. This custom, known as the “Thurmond rule,” was the reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, in 2016. 

Additionally, when Ginsburg passed away, her dying wish was that she “not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Despite this, however, McConnell and other Senate Republicans are committed to having Judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed before election day.

Though she would only take one of nine Supreme Court justice seats, Barrett’s conservative ideology would give the Republicans the vote that they need to strike down a number of important rulings. The most prominent of these is on abortion—Roe v. Wade, which has long been on the radar of conservatives. Barrett, a staunch pro-life advocate, is expected to vote to overturn this ruling alongside the five other conservative justices as more abortion-related cases make their way to the Supreme Court. 

Another piece of legislation that’s expected to die is the Affordable Care Act, the case on which the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Nov. 10. This is a vital piece of legislation for many Americans—among its many tenets is that health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage, nor can they charge a premium, on the basis of one’s sex or preexisting medical conditions. A more immediate effect for many students are the stipulations on dependent coverage; the ACA says that health insurance plans offering dependent coverage must cover them until the age of 26, rather than whenever they are no longer enrolled in school full-time.

Normally, a new appointment to the Supreme Court isn’t expected to have a significant impact on long-standing legal cases, but Barrett has already expressed in academic papers that she is willing to undermine Supreme Court precedent.

Republicans already control the executive branch and have a majority in the Senate, so Barrett’s appointment could spell disaster for the precarious balance of power we’ve maintained for so long. After all, the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review is what ensures that each branch of government stays within the limits of their power. Unless Trump or Congress does something grossly out-of-line, it’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will exercise this check on their power.

Though many are holding onto the hope that Senate Democrats will do something to stall Barrett’s confirmation hearings, the fact is that there’s little they can do when they don’t have a majority. Though Ginsburg held on as long as she could, opportunists like McConnell and Trump are willing to disrespect her by filling her seat with a judge who may reverse her legacy. The only question now is whether the next election will bring enough Democrats into other branches of government to balance the national legislature once more.