The economy has been by far the biggest issue on the national stage this election cycle. However, it is not the most important issue to vote on this coming Tuesday. Rather, I urge everyone to consider the fact that the president who is elected this year will almost assuredly get to choose the direction of the nation’s highest court. That is why it is imperative to re-elect Barack Obama.
The SCOTUS has led our society to where it is now. It was instrumental in desegregating schools, legalizing abortion, creating the Miranda rights, and a establishing a defendant’s right to legal counsel.
Most importantly, SCOTUS may get final word on some of the most significant and wide-ranging issues of our day such as abortion rights, gay marriage, health care, regulations around business and the environment, and reforms that impact banking and Wall Street.
Four justices are currently in their 70’s: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, both democratic appointees; Antonin Scalia, arguably the most conservative justice; and the notorious swing voter, Anthony M. Kennedy. Though none have publically stated any intentions to step down, health reasons could render intent null.
Not only would Romney or Obama choose justices who more closely mirror their beliefs, but their decisions would have an incredible shelf life — the average Supreme Court justice serves for 16 years. With longer life expectancy today than when the SCOTUS was established in 1789, it’s more likely that the ramifications will last two or three decades, which is ultimately an entire generation or more.
Additionally, the president will also have the power to appoint hundreds of federal judges on the appeals and district courts. Both Clinton and Reagan appointed nearly 400 judges each — many of whom are still there.
It is impossible to foresee exactly who will step down and who will be appointed; it can all play out in countless ways. However, pundits have posited that if Romney is elected we will have the most conservative SCOTUS in history. Running the risk of sounding morbid, it is worth noting the unlikelihood of 79-year-old Justice Ginsburg, who has been treated twice for cancer, outlasting a two-term Republican presidency (though not impossible: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes retired in 1932 at age 90.)
Appointing Supreme Court justices, all of whom have lifetime tenures, is a major and long lasting responsibility for the president. A more liberal-leaning SCOTUS is essential in achieving a more progressive society to protect Americans’ civil liberties, ensure economic well-being, and foster a social good devoid of religious doctrine.