All presidential elections are important, but next year’s could decide to the future of the Supreme Court for decades to come.
Back when I worked on political campaigns in a professional capacity my fellow politicos and I would often groan when we heard someone announce at rally or other campaign event that the upcoming election was the most important in a very long time. The reason is simple enough, go to enough political events over enough election cycles and you will hear those claims over and over again. It hard to remember now, but there was a time when the 2004 presidential election was routinely touted as the most important one in decades.
But however tired and overused that line might be, the 2016 presidential election is as good a candidate as for “really important election” as any other if only because it will likely decide the course of the Supreme Court for decades to come.
As Chris Cillizza pointed out in The Washington Post, “Four justices are 76 or older, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a.k.a. Notorious RBG) who is 82.” In other words if the Republicans takes the White House next year (and especially if they hold it in in 2020) they could have the opportunity replacing conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia and the more idiosyncratic conservative Anthony Kennedy with younger conservative loyalists in the mold of Samuel Alito. And perhaps even replace long time liberals like Ruther Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer with a conservative justice. Which in turn could drastically reshape the court in a more conservative image for a long time to come.
But at the same time if Democrats take the White House in 2016 you could easily see the closely divided court have an older conservative replaced with a young liberal like Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor.
In other words all presidents have an impact on the Court, but the 45th president will probably be especially influential. As Cillizza puts it:
In the more hyper-partisan political environment in which the court (and all of us) now reside, it’s hard to imagine that the outcome of the 2016 election won’t have some impact on the go/no-go decisions of the likes of Breyer, Kennedy, Scalia and Ginsburg. Given that, the stakes of the 2016 election are remarkably high. Who wins the White House will not only shape the country over the following four years but could well leave an impact on the court that stretches decades beyond that.
If you care about politics and the issues that come before the Supreme Court you should probably start paying attention to whose running for president and get involved. After all you really might not see an election like this in a long time, and this time I really mean that.
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Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP