Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies Setting the Stage for an Epic Battle for Supreme Court Seat

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday instantly upended the nation’s politics in the middle of an already bitter campaign, giving President Trump an opportunity to try to install a third member of the Supreme Court with just weeks before an election that polls show he is currently losing. (continued below video)

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The White House had already made quiet preparations in the days before Justice Ginsburg’s death to advance a nominee without waiting for voters to decide whether to give Mr. Trump another four years in the White House. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, vowed Friday night to hold a vote on a Trump nominee but would not say whether he would try to rush it through before the Nov. 3 vote in what would surely be a titanic partisan battle.

The sudden vacancy on the court abruptly transformed the presidential campaign and underscored the stakes of the contest between Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger. It also bolstered Mr. Trump’s effort to shift the subject away from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and remind Republicans why it matters whether he wins, while also potentially galvanizing Democrats who fear a change in the balance of power on the Supreme Court.

If Trump succeeds in filling Ginsburg’s seat with a justice in the mold of his two other appointees to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, it will be the court’s most extreme ideological shift since President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace legendary civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall in 1991.

Ginsburg, who was 87, had recently dictated a statement to her granddaughter. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Adam Feldman, who runs the Empirical SCOTUS blog, wrote recently that Ginsburg’s departure could be the left’s “biggest loss yet.” He pointed to some of the recent liberal victories on the court that would presumably have gone the other way if Ginsburg had been replaced with a conservative. Those cases include the affirmative action decision in Fisher v. University of Texas; Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage; National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which upheld most of Obamacare; and Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down restrictive abortion laws in Texas.