Blacks constitute about 15 per cent of the American population, and many of them are disaffected. But it is not the black-white divide that is dividing America as much as abortion rights.
Men and women are roughly equal in number in America. Assume that half the women are liberal, i.e. pro-choice, and half are conservative, i.e. anti-choice, the schism within women runs larger than the black-white polarization.
In 1973, in a case called Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court gave American women the legal right to have an abortion. No single issue rankles American conservatives more. It is their fervent wish that this law be repealed. Up till now, the Supreme Court, which has nine justices in all, all of whom serve for life (unless they want to retire themselves), has trod the middle path and supported Roe v. Wade.
Now with Ruth Bader Ginsburg” s passing, Donald Trump gets a chance to appoint another justice. He would dearly want to appoint an anti-abortion justice. This seems like a dream come true for conservatives.
But this dream is about to turn into a nightmare. The president appoints the justice, who then has to be confirmed by simple majority in the US Senate. The Senate has 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. It is clear that three Republican senators – Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski – will vote against Trump”s appointee. In the event of a 50:50 tie, US Vice President Mike Pence would get to confirm the appointee.
The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, wants Trump to fill the vacancy. But Trump”s list of potential nominees is only going to inflame the liberals. Roe v. Wade is at stake. Nothing in America is more important.
Trump had been running an energetic campaign, running from pillar to post to address rallies. Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger, has thus far been running an insipid campaign, occasionally coming out of his basement to address a press conference. In addition, Biden can fall between two stools.
He is a moderate. The far-left wing of the Democratic party is just not enamoured of him. To placate them he has had to move left on green energy and healthcare. But Ginsburg”s death and the prospect of another Trump appointee on the Supreme Court is going to enrage the far-left so much that they will come out in droves to vote for Biden.
Biden can thereby revert to his more moderate stance on climate change, healthcare, everything. That will inspire the moderate Democrats and some disillusioned Republicans to vote for him.
If Trump and McConnell were acute enough, they would wait until after the election to even release a list of justice candidates. If Trump wins, then they will get the person of their choice on the Court. If Trump loses, then he can try in the three months he”ll have remaining as president, but the country will not accept a lame duck foisting his choice on the nation.
But Trump and McConnell are giddy with power. Power makes you obtuse. Just ask the Indian ruling elite. Trump and McConnell will, in all probability, lunge at the chance to appoint a justice now. Getting their justice in before the presidential election might give them the White House.
The confirmation hearings of a US Supreme Court justice nominee can be transfixing for the county. This promises to be one of those appointments that would roil the nation. The presidential election might end up becoming an afterthought, an anti-climax.
Compared to Biden”s supporters, Trump”s are much more pumped up. The election could be decided by a mere difference of one or two percentage points. Trump getting his person in on the Court might give him a boost of five points. Trump trying to get his person in on the Court could boost Biden by ten points.
Just before she died, Ginsburg wrote that her replacement be made by a new president. With their head-in-the-sand approach, Trump and McConnell are making sure that Ginsburg”s last wish comes true.
The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas.