The notification on my phone read the unbelievable — the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a judicial icon, had died. Sitting on the floor of my friend’s room in our sorority house, I immediately read the news aloud, evoking reactions of pain and disbelief among my friends. The fear and anguish in the room were palpable. A few of us, myself included, called our moms, trying to process our emotions. The visceral reaction experienced at that moment underscored to me the immense impact RBG had on women and girls, and why we must fight tooth and nail to help protect her legacy and the future of the Supreme Court.
In the hours after the announcement of her death, it was reported that RBG’s final demand, as told by her granddaughter, was: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” This extremely pointed wish filled me with sadness as I looked at my Election Day countdown calendar reminding me that we were only 46 days from the election. It made me sad to think about how hard RBG pushed to make it to election day and see her wish of a new president fulfilled.
Within hours of her death being announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced that he would allow the Senate to debate and vote on a Supreme Court nominee nominated by President Donald Trump. This is in direct contradiction to his actions in 2016 when he refused to hold a vote on former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, saying that voters should decide, given that it was an election year. However, that seat came open 270 days before Election Day 2016, a much longer period than the time until the 2020 election. The hypocrisy of this action is not unexpected for McConnell but is no less sickening and demonstrates his callous opportunism.
Ginsburg’s death has stressed the importance of the November election and what is at stake if Democrats cannot win back the Senate and the White House. As the news of RBG’s death came in, I felt immense anger when I thought about all the people who did not vote in the 2016 election. Around 43% of eligible voters — almost 100 million Americans — did not vote, and many voters in states like Florida and Michigan voted third party, helping swing the election for Trump. In Michigan, Hillary Clinton lost by only 10,704 votes while Gary Johnson and Jill Stein got more than 220,000 votes combined. The difference between Trump and Clinton came down to only 2 voters per precinct. At the University of Michigan, only 44.7% of roughly 37,000 eligible students voted. If more students had turned out, the University alone could have made up the difference between the two candidates.
The choices of not voting or voting third party undoubtedly contributed to Trump’s win. We cannot let this happen again. Young people must vote. I have still heard of some students who are not interested in voting. Many of them say that they don’t want to vote because they feel neither candidate perfectly aligns with their ideals. However, the truth is, people seldom agree with a candidate entirely. That is why voters need to pick the best choice — the person with whom they most agree.
If you loved RBG, that person is Joe Biden. She and Biden had many of the same positions on the same issues. RBG was one of the fiercest advocates for equal rights for women. She ran the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and argued six different gender discrimination cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Biden has also been a major advocate for women, especially in his role as the chief architect of the Violence Against Women Act.
RBG also was a firm believer in having the court protect a woman’s right to choose in terms of abortion and reproductive rights. She ruled in favor of this right in cases like Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Biden is also a strong supporter of a right to choose, another way that his views mirror those of RBG.
Over these final weeks of the election, we must do what we can to support Biden by volunteering, donating money, talking to others and of course, voting. Vote for Biden and support down-ballot candidates, especially senators. Winning back the Senate and presidency by a resounding margin is the only way that we can possibly retain RBG’s seat and prevent Trump from filling more vacancies in the next four years. The Senate is the legislative body that confirms Supreme Court nominees. If Biden wins the presidency, but Democrats cannot win back the Senate, then the president will face massive obstruction on any justice nominations.
RBG was a fighter. Even on her deathbed, she was thinking about her country and the future. Let us honor her legacy by voting blue and ensuring that the policies that she devoted her life to are protected and expanded upon.
Isabelle Schindler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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