The verbiage is never-ending. The rhetoric is bombastic. The pundits keep guessing in the hopes that maybe this time they are right. The news coverage is exhaustive and exhausting. We are reintroduced to the small towns and hamlets of states we will revisit only every four years. The polling numbers flash on the screen with the authority of prophecy. This is democracy in action during a modern presidential election. In this age of the 24 hour news cycle we are buried by an avalanche of information. Yet, during this hallowed process we are expected to somehow discern fact from fiction, authentic from phony, strength from weakness and honesty from dishonesty. We are then asked to cast our vote in hopes that we have made the right decision. But this year, more than most elections in the recent past, our decision will have extraordinary consequences. The person who ultimately resides in the White House after this election will have the opportunity to impact the lives of our children and our grandchildren in profound ways. As many as four current Supreme Court Justices will be retiring during our new President’s first term.
All of the rhetoric bouncing off of the walls of auditoriums, high school gyms and coffee shops needs to be put through only one filter. What do that candidate’s words say about the kind of person he or she will nominate to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court? The current Court composition leaves much to be desired with Kennedy all too often serving as the counter-balance to conservative rulings. However, with four Justices likely to retire over the next four years the Court’s composition is up for grabs. Obviously, with a conservative majority controlling the Court the potential for a disastrous rollback of earlier progressive victories is very real. There is hardly a part of our lives that will not be impacted by this possibility. The decisions of the Court have touched healthcare, woman’ rights, commerce, privacy, marriage equality, abortion and voting rights just to name a few. The ideological battles currently being fought throughout the court system on all of these issues makes it clear that given the opportunity the Supreme Court could reverse earlier victories. There is little doubt that a Court dominated by conservatives will avail itself of this offering.
The longterm impact on life in America will be profound should this occur. Freedoms and liberties that we have come to take for granted will suddenly be in question. Prime among them will be a women’s right to choose. This decades-old ruling, should it be reversed, will be just the beginning of an erosion of the place of women in our society. A reversal of the ruling regarding Marriage Equality will once again allow for the denigration of those who are different from what “society” accepts as the norm. The rollback of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 ruling will set the role of women in the workplace back decades. Given the choice, there is little doubt that a conservative Court will make voting, a most basic right, more difficult for the poor, young, elderly and minorities. These are just a few examples of how our lives will be touched by a reconfiguration of the Court.
Obviously all Presidential elections are important. However, there are some that are more consequential and potentially more impactful than others. While we are all concerned about issues of war and peace and growth of the economy, living in a nation that respects individual choice, personal freedom and basic civil rights has to be considered our priority when making our decision. It is clear that a conservative Court will change our country in ways that many of us will find intolerable. It is up to us to make sure that this doesn’t happen. It is the most important issue of this Presidential campaign. Our children and grandchildren are depending on us.