After several recent health scares, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away this evening, according to several major news outlets (turn on your TV right now if you want confirmation). This is a tragic loss. She was a towering giant in American history. Her passing is going to have a major impact on the 2020 election, in a few different ways.
There are 46 days until the election, and that’s usually considered to be not nearly enough time to get through the long and complicated process of vetting, nominating, and confirming a Supreme Court justice. Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell will have to decide whether they want to try to ram a confirmation through before election day. Senate Democrats would stand a good chance at being able to prevent that by using procedural stalling tactics.
Accordingly, Trump and McConnell might instead decide to simply announce that they’re going to confirm the new Justice during the transition period. Even if the Democrats win the Senate and the Presidency, Trump and the GOP will still control things until January. The question would be whether they’d have enough political muscle to pull off a lame duck confirmation, or if an overwhelming amount of public pressure could block it from happening.
In any case, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacancy is about to play a key role in the 2020 election. If Trump and the GOP try to install someone awful before the election, voters will likely punish them in the election. And if they don’t fill the seat, voters will be motivated to elect Joe Biden and Senate Democrats so they can install someone qualified.
To be clear, there is no possible way that any of this helps Donald Trump’s chances of winning the election. But the ugly reality is that Trump could end up putting someone truly awful on the Supreme Court on his way out the door. We’re going to have to gear up for a huge battle to try to stall and block Trump from filling the seat, by any and all legal means possible. This election was already the fight of our lives; the stakes just got even higher.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report