Francesca Bitton is a senior international studies major.
On Feb. 13, 2016 the United States Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia died, reducing the bench from nine justices to eight. Today’s bench is split: four justices who typically lean Republican, and four who often side Democrat. That leaves one seat to tilt the bench towards one end of the political spectrum, or the option of course to have one justice fall in the middle of the scale.
In March, President Barack Obama tried to nominate Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to fill the vacant seat. Unsurprisingly, the Republican-dominated Senate refused to give the “advise and consent” required by the Constitution to Judge Garland, leaving the seat vacant to this day. That leaves us with eight justices, and one of our two presidential contenders the power to elect the ninth justice when they get into office. But aren’t we forgetting something?
Of course who we vote for is important; it determines who will be serving as Commander in Chief, Chief Diplomat and Chief Administrator. Whether you believe Hillary Clinton is shady because of her inappropriate use of a personal email for work, or Donald Trump is a foreign policy amatuer, one will be taking the seat in the Oval Office and given the power to choose the next Supreme Court Justice. That fact alone should be the bigger, more important conversation than the size of Donald Trump’s hands.
The Supreme Court has procured many of the laws and rights we abide by and rely on daily. Many women across the U.S. were afforded the right to privacy in the event that they want to terminate a pregnancy because the Supreme Court decided in favor of Roe v. Wade. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to be married, restoring the basic human right to love. However, if Donald Trump were to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice, many of the liberties women, men, LGBTQ and unidentified persons enjoy today would be overturned.
Back in May, Donald Trump released a list of 11 potential judges he would like to nominate to fill Justice Scalia’s seat. Former Republican president George W. Bush, who had a history of conservative social values, also suggested six of these nominees, clearly showing which way conservative politicians lean. In fact, many of the nominees have publicly spoken out against the right for a woman to have an abortion. Furthermore, Diana Sykes, one of the prospective judges, stated that even if engaging in discriminatory acts, anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to receive government subsidies.
When we vote for our President in November, we are simultaneously voting for our next Supreme Court Justice. It is imperative that citizens acknowledge the weight of their vote and the responsibilities of our next President and newest Supreme Court Justice. Do we want to reverse years of progressive laws which allow for the basic human rights? We have the constitutional right to vote, a privilege many countries around the world dream of having. It is shameful to neglect the power of the Supreme Court and the future it could shape: immigration, the rights of women, health-care and civil liberties for marginalized groups. No more rhetoric about “bad hombres” and no more jokes about the grabbing of genitalia. The President’s values speak for all American values, and these are not American values, nor are they humanistic. Our vote could change the course of history and United States law.