This Viewpoint was written on Tuesday Sept. 22 and facts may have changed by the time of print.
Shock. Fear. Grief. Those emotions washed over me like a tidal wave within the first minute of my hearing the news about the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). I was spending the evening with my roommate, who is just as insanely politically active as I am, and one of our STEM major friends, who is less intensely consumed by politics. We were about to start watching a movie and could not bring ourselves to press play until a good 30 minutes later because of all the potential consequences running through our minds. We barely had time to truly grieve this enormous loss because of all the uncertainty her death created. Who would be her replacement? Who would get to choose her replacement? Would Republicans act with any sense of decency and follow the precedent they set in 2016? Now, three days later, some of those questions have clear answers; others, not so much.
In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, eight months before the general election in November. President Obama put forth a name to replace Justice Scalia: Merrick Garland. However, the Republican-led Senate refused to even vote on the replacement because, in their opinion, it was unfair to appoint a new justice when the election season was already underway. At the time, multiple Republican senators said that they would hope to be held to the same standard if a similar incident occured during an election if a Republican were president. Those senators have since proven that those words were a bold-faced lie. Republican senators, with the exceptions of Senators Murkowski and Collins, have expressed their intentions to move ahead with a vote on President Trump’s nominee, and President Trump has said that he fully plans to put forth a nominee on the Supreme Court by Saturday, Sept. 26. This puts the court in the position to have three liberal justices and six conservative justices, a position that would be hard to come back from for at least 30 years, and could put so many civil rights at risk.
We do not have to sit quietly while this is happening. There are ways for us as citizens and voters to make our voices heard. First, make sure you are registered to vote. It can be completed online in Ohio and takes about five minutes. Call or email your senators if they have not already agreed to vote “no” on the nominee. Use their past words against them. Senator Portman of Ohio supported holding off on voting for President Obama’s nominee but now says he plans to fully support President Trump’s. In 2016, he even went so far as to write an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer to support his opinion. Call his office and remind him of that. Volunteer to phone-bank with candidates across the country. Electing Democrats is still incredibly important.
Even if we are not able to stop RBG’s replacement from sitting on the court, Justice Breyer is 82 years old. It is important that we elect Joe Biden so that Justice Breyer has the ability to retire and we can replace him with a younger justice. Also, there is still potential to flip the Senate. Volunteering in competitive Senate races can make a huge difference. And most importantly — vote! This is so incredibly important for our generation. Our age range voted in record numbers in 2018 and we saw the results. If we turn out, our votes can make a difference.
Do not respond to RBG’s death with silence. Respond with the full force of your political power. May her memory be a blessing, and maybe even a revolution.