Those who have studied the role of the Supreme Court in American life understand above all this November's election is about who will nominate and confirm the next Justices. The nine men and women on the Court have a more lasting impact on our lives than any one President or Congress. The next President will probably have the opportunity to nominate at least three Justices. In addition to the current vacancy, due to Antonin Scalia's passing, which may remain vacant till the next President is sworn in, three other Justices are either near or above eighty years of age. Anthony Kennedy will be 80 on July 23; Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83; and Steven Breyer turns 78 in August.
Many crucial issues facing the nation, issues at the center of the current presidential campaign, will eventually end up in front of the court. They include gun control and the scope of the 2nd Amendment; the effort to overturn Citizens United and getting big money out of politics; the Affordable Care Act and how it relates to women's health issues and the separation of church and state; Voting rights; and the continuing fight over the rights of LGBT Americans, among others.
The fight will continue in the political realm with Congress and state governments fighting over and passing legislation on these issues. However the deep divisions in the country will lead to law suits over any legislation passed which will make their way through the judicial system and end up at the door of the Supreme Court. Then these all powerful nine men and women will decide what rights Americans have under our constitution impacting us for decades. While Presidents, members of Congress, Governors and state legislators come and go Supreme Court Justices with their lifetime appointments will still be there.
Many debate whether our founding fathers were right in giving nine individuals such power. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 tried unsuccessfully to add six members to the Court. He failed but by 1942 with his ability to nominate, seven of the nine were his appointments.
We have seen how Supreme Court decisions affect our lives. In recent memory decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education making segregated school systems illegal; Loving v. Virginia legalizing interracial marriage; Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion; Gideon v. Wainwright guaranteeing the right to counsel; District of Columbia v. Heller determining the Second Amendment protects the individual's right to bear arms; and Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized gay marriage; all changed society. They even decided the 2000 Presidential election in Bush v. Gore.
The coming election will determine whether control of the Court rests with conservatives or liberals. Their interpretation of the Constitution will determine how we live our lives often more than most decisions made by Congress or the President on any particular issue or bill.
Voters should always keep in mind their vote determines who will be nominating and confirming the next Supreme Court Justices. We know the candidates Donald Trump will choose from if he gets the chance to nominate a Justice. For a liberal they are all frightening. Trump committed to nominating pro-life Justices who in addition to considering overturning Roe v. Wade will want to overturn marriage-equality, and the Affordable Care Act.
Clinton has committed to nominating Justices who would vote to overturn Citizens United, protect Roe v. Wade, Marriage-equality and represent the diversity of the nation.
While conservatives are more focused on the issue of the Court liberals and progressives too often seem less concerned to the detriment of all they believe in. There appears to be a lack of understanding about the repercussions of a Republican winning the White House. A recent People's Summit in Chicago, organized by the left-wing National Nurses United union, drew over 3000 activists. Many supporters of Bernie Sanders trying to decide what their next step was going to be. Many seem to not grasp the importance of keeping the White House in Democratic hands if they have any hope of moving their agenda forward. Senator Sanders recently indicated he does understand this when he committed to voting for Hillary Clinton and doing everything he can to defeat Trump.
The make-up of the Supreme Court over the next thirty years might well be the most lasting legacy resulting from this Presidential election.