As a 19-year-old, I potentially could retire before Amy Coney Barrett does.
A specific function of the United States Senate is to provide advice and consent to the president in the appointment of Supreme Court justices. In 2016, when former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, was in office, Senate Republicans violated their oath by refusing to consider replacing former Associate Justice Antonin Scalia nine months before the presidential election. They were betting on a Republican presidential win that year and cashed out when President Donald Trump was elected. As a consequence, the Republican Party transformed democratic procedure for political gain. As furious as the Democrats were at the time, they were the minority party and could do nothing but accept that a new political precedent had been set for the country.
Fast forward to Sept. 18, 2020. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87, less than two months before the presidential election. A week later, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg’s vacancy, reversing the GOP’s own precedent. This goes to show that the Republican Party is a party that doesn’t even play by its own rules.
The GOP has not provided a convincing argument justifying its hypocrisy, but it does not need to. Trump’s base has been so blindly loyal that the concept of complicating the democratic process does not dent his popularity among his followers. Even in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump shamelessly claimed that the Democrats would have done the same thing had the situation been reversed. This may be true. However, if you find a wallet on the ground and pocket it, thinking “Well, the next guy would have done the same thing,” you haven’t changed the fact that the wallet is still in your pocket.
The Republicans’ rush to appoint Coney Barrett represents a danger to the country’s democracy. Clearly, securing a 6–3 majority for the Republicans on the Supreme Court is more valuable to conservatives than any political precedents they previously set. A shift to a conservative-majority Court confirmed in Trump’s potential final days, would represent a major Republican victory and a seismic change in American politics for years to come.
So what is at stake? Most of the landmark liberal progressive gains of the last decades — including Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act — could be easily rolled back, and Democratic issues at the top of legislative priorities like climate change and racial justice could be struck down to the bottom of the pile.
Trump’s appointment will affect my entire adult life — when I turn 61 and am looking to retire, Coney Barrett might be doing the same at age 90. A new generation of young politicians, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was prepared to right so many wrongs in America but will most likely have to do so while fettered.