What Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Death Could Mean For 2020 And The Supreme Court

fivethirtyeight.com
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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday night — a pivotal moment in the history of the nation's highest court. Ginsburg's death is one …
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday night — a pivotal moment in the history of the nation's highest court. Ginsburg's death is one of the biggest developments yet in 2020, a year that has already included the impeachment of the sitting president, a deadly virus killing nearly 200,000 Americans and an economic collapse. Ginsburg not only reshaped U.S. jurisprudence — in particular, as an advocate for women's rights — but she became a cultural and political icon too, especially for liberals and progressives.

Indeed, her death, and the fight to fill her seat, may have a number of political implications. Those will become clearer over the next days and weeks, of course, with the election right around the corner, but here's a first look at what some of those potential implications might be:

1. Republicans have to decide whether they will break from their "no election year confirmations" stance from 2016

Back in 2016, when Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that voters should get to choose the president and that president should get to pick the next justice. Then-Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, and Obama nominated Garland that March.

Ginsburg's death comes even closer to the 2020 election — 46 days away. In all of American history, we have had only two Supreme Court vacancies closer to Election Day than we have now. In both instances, the incumbent president won reelection and nominated a replacement shortly after Election Day. (In terms of the actual confirmation, one was confirmed in December, one in March.) So by historical standards — and, notably, McConnell's own previous standard — Trump would not nominate anyone unless he won a second term in November, since the election is less than two months away.

Filling a seat this close to the election is unheard of Supreme Court vacancies in…
Perry Bacon Jr.
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