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The Implications of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's Retirement
After 30 years as a Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement. With a tumultuous political environment, what does this mean for the future?
To my generation, Justice Kennedy is probably most known as the one who decided gay marriage in the United States. Over the years, his swing vote has decided many cases, and on the spectrum he falls in the middle as a true centrist. But now, in 2018, America is more divided than ever and the political fighting and infighting has become...well, uncivil. Wednesday, Kennedy announced his retirement. Once the news hit the public, emotions ran rampant. The right was gleeful that a new, more conservative justice would take his place. The left was anguished that a new, more conservative justice would take his place.
What's next? In 2016, when Justice Scalia abruptly died, Republicans in the Senate refused to hold hearings for then-President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the people should choose the direction of the Supreme Court, and the Senate should wait until after the presidential election to take up the issue of a new SCOTUS judge. Democrats declared the people had already chosen when they elected Barack Obama, and it was his right as the president to nominate a new justice. Merrick Garland was never afforded the opportunity of a hearing or even a meeting. Of course once President Trump took office, he nominated a more conservative choice, Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch was easily confirmed and has since proven to be the conservative voice Republicans desired on the bench.
Now, President Trump will be given the opportunity to nominate his second justice in two years. Democrats say because this is an election year, the people should get to decide, just as McConnell stated. Republicans claim that only applies to presidential elections, obviously. If another conservative voice is added to SCOTUS, what happens? Several landmark cases, such as abortion and gay marriage, could easily be overturned. This has Democrats and other progressive groups terrified.
And while it's easy to react in such a way, we should think about this logically. Logic in American politics in 2018? I know, I laughed too. First, would the Supreme Court even take up a case to overturn Roe v. Wade? What kind of case would even make it to the Court to be heard? Each year, many cases are denied by SCOTUS and sent back down to the lower courts. And even if it did come up for a hearing with the Supreme Court, I'm not sure Chief Justice Roberts would overturn that decision. That doesn't seem like a legacy he would be willing to take on. There could be huge implications in voting rights, particularly with gerrymandering. What about civil rights? Immigration? Religion? Guns?
The possibilities are endless here, but would this new SCOTUS even go that far? Will this new justice be the knight in shining armor for conservatives? The one who will save this country from depravity? Or will progressives find a way to block this nomination and take back control of the legislative branch? Everyone can speculate, but no one can predict the future.