A look into the post-RBG world of American politics

1 August 2020

6:01 AM

1 August 2020

6:01 AM

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the hospital — again. The 87-year-old has overcome many health concerns while sitting on the SCOTUS, but an additional liver cancer diagnosis and a recent number of hospital visits leave little room for optimism. The prospect of President Trump replacing an iconic Democratic-appointed justice is a big fear among leftists. But is this fear rooted more in media hysteria than honest judgment?

A single SCOTUS seat is limited in power, especially considering the unpredictable voting patterns of recent GOP-appointed justices. The exact legacy of RBG is up for debate, but everyone, regardless of political leanings, can admire her perseverance. Since being appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg has had battles with colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and now liver cancer.

This time though, doctors aren’t as optimistic, with one telling AP, ‘clearly, she’s got incurable disease now’. And cancer is not her only medical concern. Ginsburg was hospitalized Wednesday for a nonsurgical procedure — to ‘revise a bile duct stent’ — from which she is expected to recover from by the end of this week. An infection hospitalized her just a few weeks prior too, in addition to a gallstone infection that had hospitalized her in May. The chaotic year of 2020 may yet throw another curveball before the election.

‘RBG works less than five miles from here,’ a DC sign states. ‘If you won’t wear a mask to protect your friends and family, do it to protect RBG.’

The obsessive fangirl declaration to ‘protect RBG at all costs’ has become a meme within itself. And with every joke comes media hysteria. Progressive activist Ian Millhiser of Vox wrote a piece earlier this month dramatically titled ‘What’s at stake if Trump gets to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’, in which he predicts the chaos that will ensue if the oh-so-evil Republicans get their way yet again: ‘America becomes even less democratic’ and ‘LGBTQ Americans could be stripped of their constitutional rights’.

Apparently, a single court seat could be the breaking point of the American republic. But wait, didn’t that already happen when Trump was elected? Or is the breaking point this election? It’s so hard to keep track.

This sort of fear-mongering is anything but based in reality. When justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were appointed by Trump, media talking heads assured the public they would essentially be Republicans on the bench, even claiming that the end of abortion was near. Yet both justices have sided with the liberals of the court on issues such as LGBT workplace protections and Planned Parenthood funding.

This isn’t to say the two newest justices are full-fledged leftists. Like any good judge, they have their own judicial philosophies based on decades of study and practice. Data shows Gorsuch and Kavanaugh siding with each other at a historically low rate compared to other pairs of judges who were appointed by the same president.

And then there’s the case of Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee who has increasingly sided more and more with the liberal side of the bench, which he seems to believe is crucial in protecting judicial balance and precedent. This certainly was the case when he marked the swing vote in a 5-4 decision on a Louisiana law regulating abortion practice: a huge loss for pro-life advocates.

Roberts, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch all have complex, unpredictable approaches to interpreting the law. Considering they consist of three of the past four GOP nominations to the nation’s highest court, who is to say a Trump replacement for RBG would be all that revolutionary? A rightward shift, sure, but a shift in power is nothing new to the American system of government. RBG may be a ‘qween’ to some, but the reign of queens in this country is long gone.

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