The US Supreme Court has long been a key consideration for voters – but now, with the death of liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it’s taking centre stage for many.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill Ginsburg’s seat before the election in November – a move Democrats have strongly opposed.
In 2016, Mr McConnell refused to hold a vote to confirm a nominee put forward by then-President Barack Obama, arguing justices should not be approved in an election year. But this year, Mr McConnell says things are different, with the same party holding both the Senate and the White House.
We asked voters from across the US what they think should happen next, what this means for November’s election, and what they feel will be Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy.
Bilal Aksoy, 21, progressive Democrat, Pennsylvania
Let’s use Senator Mitch McConnell’s words – “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” This was his statement in 2016.
What has changed in four years besides the attacks on our democracy by the Trump administration and the enabling by Republicans?
We’re currently in the election. Voting has started in many states and mail-in ballots are going out. We shouldn’t hold any hearings for any nominees. Wait till 21 January for the president to nominate someone. Can’t have double standards.
I think this election was already important because of everything being on the ballot. We knew the Supreme Court was on the ballot, but now even more.
Politics and everything aside, Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked her entire life to make others’ better. She worked tirelessly day and night. She worked when she fell sick. She worked through her cancer diagnosis multiple times. She was back at work days after an injury. This human being was a living legend.
Battle over Supreme Court
Scott Nolan, 55, Republican, Virginia
The Constitution is clear – the president has the authority to nominate a replacement to a vacant seat and the Senate has the authority to confirm or not.
Sometimes these events play into the hands of the left or the right and then the losing side makes an embarrassing carnival show of pretending they wouldn’t do what the winning side is doing if they were in power. It’s a charade of which they should be ashamed.
I think the president should nominate the best candidate he can find as quickly as he can and let the Senate do their job.
It doesn’t change my view of the election at all. In my view, the one thing Vice-President Biden got right was that this election is about the soul of America. In my view it is about a respect for the rule of law and the Constitution versus lawlessness in the streets and a slide into mediocrity and socialism from which we may never recover.
I greatly respect Justice Ginsburg’s intellect and her barrier-breaking career. As an attorney, I recognise the clarity and power of her insights. She surely deserves her reputation.
However, I think it’s also fair to say that I agreed with her on only a minority of issues and while I pray she may rest in peace and honour, I look forward to a more conservative voice on the court.
Reem Sabha, 24, Democrat, Washington state
If Senate Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, were to nominate and confirm a new Supreme Court justice just seven weeks before the election, it would be completely hypocritical to their stance four years ago.
Nine months before the 2016 election, the Republican-majority Senate did not hold any proceedings on Merrick Garland’s nomination by President Obama.
Justice Ginsburg’s passing adds to the urgency of this election. Supreme Court decisions have a profound impact on millions of Americans. With Justice Ginsburg’s passing, the fate of Roe v Wade [abortion rights] and the Affordable Care Act are at stake.
Justice Ginsburg is a feminist icon. She will be remembered as someone who personally overcame sexism in her career while championing women’s equality and making a profound mark on American history. I don’t think any other Supreme Court justice has ever had such a profound cultural impact on people, inspiring them to stand up for justice and equality.
I personally have a small plaque on display in my room that says: “Do all things with the confidence of Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting.” I think that society often tells women that they are not enough, or that they are too much, and these words remind me to be confident with who I am and what I advocate for.
Gavin Wax, 26, Republican, New York
The president should immediately nominate a successor to the Supreme Court and such person should be considered by the Senate to begin the nomination process.
This will energise both parties’ bases thus cancelling each other out. The talking points will shift and turnout will rise but the actual election results will most likely not shift.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy will be hotly debated between both wings of the ideological spectrum.
I do not view her as a unifying figure. She will be remembered as a liberal and feminist hero by the left and a staunch enemy of tradition, the Constitution, and conservatism by the right.
Claire Lamberth, 77, Democrat, Delaware
In a better world, there would be a respectful consideration by the Senate in order to select the best candidate. This will definitely not happen now as Mitch McConnell has announced his intention to proceed with getting one of Trump’s horrible candidates seated. I cannot tell you how much I loathe that man and his hypocrisy, so I expect we will have a very conservative court in the near future.
As far as the election goes, I am already donating to McConnell’s opponent and hoping that the Senate turns Democratic after the election.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy will be far reaching beyond a doubt. For a Jewish woman of her generation to be able to get the education she did is mind boggling to me.
I am 78, a graduate of Barnard College, and remember how difficult it was for women to go to law school and medical school. At a time when women were supposed to be homemakers or teachers she showed that obstacles could be overcome with determination and belief in oneself.
Women now have much more opportunity to succeed in the law thanks in no small part to her.
Ryan Sedgeley, 25, Progressive, Wyoming
Given the treatment of Merrick Garland, the Senate should wait until after the election to vote on a nominee for the US Supreme Court. If Biden wins, then Biden should choose the next nominee. Anything less is just more hypocrisy from Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans.
The death of RBG raises the stakes of this election higher.
Biden is going to need to win big so that questions about the election never get decided by a radically conservative Supreme Court. It also means that Biden is going to need to pack the courts. Increasing the size of the court and the federal judiciary to offset the court packing that the Republicans have been doing since President Obama’s time in office is going to be crucial if any semblance of fairness and justice is going to be achieved by the courts.
Of course this makes the election of Democratic Senators crucial too. If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, they will continue their obstructionism and make it very difficult to pass important progressive legislation.
I think Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy will be that of a heroic woman that battled against sexism, and in her last years, battled against the spectre of American fascism by fighting through her cancer and holding on to life. It must have been a tremendous burden for her to bear.
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