By: Jim Carroll
In the near future there will be a major political event that may affect our country for generations to come. No, I’m not talking about the upcoming 2014 mid-term elections; I’m not even talking about the 2016 Presidential election. What I am referring to is the next probable vacancy on the Supreme Court.
For years now, the Supreme Court has been split ideologically, with four liberal leaning Justices, four conservative leaning Justices, and one swing vote who leans more to the conservative side. Even with recent changes on the Court, the ideological split has been relatively maintained. In the most recent changes on the Court, retiring conservative justices have left and been replaced under a conservative administration, and the more liberal justices have done likewise under a liberal administration, but there is a chance that may soon change.
There is a strong possibility that after the 2014 mid-terms, the Republicans may gain control of the US Senate. With that, Republicans would control both houses of Congress, and President Obama would become a lame duck. As far as the replacement of any court justices, much less the Supreme Court, there is little if any chance that the President will be able to get any judicial confirmation to the bench. Now, that doesn’t stop the President from appointing judges while he is still in office, but without Senate confirmation, they do not get a permanent appointment, and their time on the bench is limited. Now we come to the 2016 Presidential election. In the event that a Republican wins, and Republicans maintain control of the Senate, the nominations and confirmations of some conservative justices becomes a very likely reality. Even in the event that a Democrat wins the White House, as long as Republicans can successfully pick up and maintain a majority in the Senate, a liberal president might, at best, be able to get a somewhat moderate judicial nomination confirmed.
Now we get to the real “so what” of all this. Currently 4 of the justices on the Supreme Court are starting to get along in years, and one in particular, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is 81 years of age and reported to have some health issues. In the event that Justice Ginsburg remains on the Court for a few more years, there is a very real possibility that the next Supreme Court nomination, likely to replace Justice Ginsburg, will be a conservative one. Such an appointment would tip the scales of the court to a decidedly conservative one. Such an event has not gone unnoticed by liberals. There has even been some liberal suggesting that Justice Ginsburg go ahead and retire while there is a better chance of ensuring she is replaced by a more liberal nominee. There has been enough pressure on this issue that her intent to remain on the Court was brought up in a recent interview. During that interview, and in several other instances, Justice Ginsburg has made statements to the effect that she has no intention of retiring anytime soon. However, I still wouldn’t be surprised if in the next few weeks, Justice Ginsburg did announce her retirement, but I hope she doesn’t. I could even see where a Supreme Court nomination a few weeks before the election, a nomination which Republicans would likely try to block, would be used as fuel by the Democrats to show how the Republicans are not working with the President and are obstructionist. It is an event that could make some Republicans in potential swing states very nervous. Democrats have kept any controversial issues off the floor for several weeks in an attempt to shelter some of their more vulnerable senators, but don’t think they wouldn’t push something if they thought it would put the pressure back on Republicans. Funny how Democrats not allowing issues to come to a vote isn’t considered “obstructionist” but Republicans voting against or filibustering an issue is.
This may be the first time in my life that I have wanted to keep one of the liberal justices on the bench; at least until after the 2014 mid-term elections. I have been guardedly excited about the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate to go along with a Republican House. I hope for a strong Republican presidential candidate that can win in 2016, but the thought of having 5 or 6 solidly conservative justices on the Supreme Court gives me great hope for the future of our country. Ultimately, having a conservative court is not about Republican or Democrat, it’s about having justices that follow the Constitution of the United States and make decisions that concern the betterment of our country. As it is, some of our more liberal justices like to quote how laws in foreign countries are superior to ours. We have even had a recently retired Supreme Court Justice express how he thought the Constitution should change to meet what he sees as the needs of our country. Fact is, our Constitution is the basis of what our country is, and it is superior to any other governmental document worldwide. There have been attempts at copying it, but it is the original standard of freedom. What I want in a Justice is one that follows the lead of that document, and makes rulings based on it.
There is also another side to this coin. Two of the more senior justices on the court that may likely get replaced, due to retirement or death, in the next few years are some of the most solidly conservative justices on the court. If Republicans don’t gain control of the Senate and the White House, we could see the court take an equally solid liberal lean.
Conservatives need three things to happen in the next few years, and they are all within the realm of possibility. Republicans, preferably more conservative ones, have to win control of the Senate in 2014. They then need to maintain, preferably increase control, of the Senate in 2016. Lastly, Republicans need a strong conservative to win the nomination and election as President in 2016. Now is not a time to blink. This is an opportunity that may not come again for many years and it is imperative we not let it slip through our fingers. Ultimately, this can be a big win or a big loss. Get out and vote. Make sure your friends and family vote.