Newsmakers with JR
6 Tuesdays to Go: How Death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Will Impact Politics in 2020 - and Beyond
Donald Trump lacks the class and common decency that God gave dirt, and so could barely spare breath to honor the righteous life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she died last Friday at 87.
Instead the 46 percent 45th president, aided and abetted by fellow reprobate Mitch McConnell, immediately set to work plotting ways and means ramrod through a Ginsburg successor on the U.S. Supreme Court, the better to undo all that the late Justice had accomplished.
As yet another extraordinary shock convulsed a presidential campaign already contorted by pandemic, recession and anti-racism protests, Phil Trounstine, veteran political reporter and co-founder of Calbuzz, checked in with Newsmakers to sift through the impacts and implications of the passing of the Justice Ginsburg.
Here are six takeaways, six Tuesdays before the Nov. 3 election.
She lived a consequential life. It is fitting, if discomfiting and shameful, that the late Justice Ginsburg on Friday will become the first woman in American history to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. Among the many encomiums published since her passage, the obit by longtime SCOTUS reporter Linda Greenhouse most comprehensively catalogues the astonishing series of far-reaching legal victories she won as a civil rights attorney before joining the court -- without which women would have remained true second-class citizens, no doubt disqualified from the honor the jurist will receive this week, previously granted only to men.
Her death changed the subject. As a political matter, Justice Ginsburg's death, in the short-term at least, benefits Trump, a huge and far-reaching news event that has diverted media attention away from the horrific fact that the U.S. passed the appalling milestone of 200,000 deaths in the pandemic -- more than 20 percent of the global death count in a country representing 4 percent of the world's population. A media spotlight on the swirl of contentious legal and political issues surrounding a Supreme Court vacancy and appointment serves Trump's interests by framing the election as a choice, contrasting his views with Joe Biden's -- rather than as a referendum on his own failed leadership and the lives it cost.
Roe vs. Wade and Obamacare will be on the chopping block. Mitt Romney's announcement on Tuesday that he will support McConnell's push for a speedy confirmation vote insures that the Senate Majority Leader will have at least the 50 Republican votes he needs to ram through a Trump appointment -- either before the election or in the following two months before the next presidential Inaugural. Confirmation would lock in a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the nine-member Supreme Court, probably for decades, positioning the Affordable Care Act and a woman's right to choose to have an abortion as prime targets for right-wing legal actors seeking to undo liberal-backed settled law.
The Democrats' last, best hope is to win the Senate. In coming weeks, there will be no shortage of sturm und drang that will surround the process of picking Justice Ginsburg's replacement, but as a practical matter, there simply is not a lot that Democrats, holding only a minority of Senate seats under current rules, can do to stop it. As Never-Trump and other conservative columnists have noted, however, if Democrats win back the White House and the Senate, it is all but guaranteed they will embark on an effort to transform the historic parameters of the high court -- its size and guarantee of lifetime tenure for starters -- in a bid to staunch generations of conservative SCOTUS opinions, not only on abortion and health care, but also on criminal justice, environmental regulation, civil rights, taxes and the economy, foreign policy, political corruption and more.
Senate race cost-benefits. To take control of the Senate, Democrats need to gain a net three seats, if Biden wins the White House and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris breaks 50-50 ties, and the Trump-McConnell push to railroad through a new court pick likely will make life more difficult for three incumbent Republicans already struggling to hold on against Democratic challengers in purple states -- Martha McSally in Arizona, Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins in Maine (who tellingly has said that Trump should not pick Justice Ginsburg's successor). However, Democrats are widely forecast to lose a seat in deep-red Alabama they picked up in a strange special election, and the Supreme Court fight could benefit GOP incumbents in competitive races in more reliably red states - Georgia, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina - where debates over judicial philosophy may reset the board.
Well played, Republicans. For the GOP, a 6-3 Supreme Court majority, coupled with more than 200 other Trump federal court appointments the Senate already has confirmed, represents the culmination of a long-game project to remake the U.S. judiciary system over recent decades. In large part because of the party's fervently anti-abortion evangelical base, the court long has been a greater priority for Republican than Democratic voters: exit polls after the 2016 election showed that 21 percent of voters said that Supreme Court and judicial appointments were "the most important" issue to them - and Trump won 56 percent of these to Hillary Clinton's 41 percent; of the 14 percent of voters who said the courts were "not at all important" to them, Clinton won 55 percent and Trump 37 percent.
Click below to see Newsmakers' conversation with Phil Trounstine and...the podcast version is here.
4-Huge impact on Senate
5-Dems end filibuster
6-Republican project/Dems don’t get it