Eaton: Broken precedent and broken promises

The rules still apply to those who make them.


Emily Eaton

I was lucky enough to be raised in a home where feminism is expected, not contested. As a child, I dreamed not of being a Disney princess but instead of following in the footsteps of icons espoused by my mother and grandmother: women, young and old, making strides in a world built for men. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of these women. I have a feeling that her passing will become one of those, “Where were you when …” type of moments. Where were you when the stalwart of gender equality left us? Where were you when the fear of losing control over your own body began to sink in? Where were you when you realized that a singular 87-year-old woman is all that was standing between Mitch McConnell’s power hungry duplicity and life as we know it?

Unfortunately, there is no time to grieve the passing of this icon — at least, not when the Senate is already moving to overturn a precedent it set in 2016, now called the Garland rule. Regardless of political beliefs, it is important to acknowledge and admonish the sheer number of senators who are turning their backs on their own word, their own promises to the American people. When Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February of 2016, then President Barack Obama was prevented from appointing the next justice to the Supreme Court. It was too close to the election, Republican senators argued, and the choice should be up to the American people.

One would assume, then, that these senators would afford the American people the same diligence and respect today that they did in 2016. Surely they would maintain the precedent that was set, especially given something as delicate as the Supreme Court, which is meant to remain apolitical. Appointing a Supreme Court justice used to be a bipartisan effort in which both parties worked together to find the most qualified candidate: not the candidate whose beliefs would tip the scale in favor of one politician’s platform or another’s — the most qualified. For the last several years, the bipartisan jig has been up. But this is not just another political chess game with the goal of racking up brownie points back home. Whoever is appointed to the court has the power to alter the political landscape of our nation far beyond the lifespan of this presidency or even the next. Choosing to move forward with the appointment of the next justice before the election not only violates precedent, it does a great disservice to the American people.

The issue here is not just a violation of the Garland rule but a direct attempt to inhibit the nonpartisan nature of the Supreme Court. A crucial facet of our flawed, but functioning, democracy is an apolitical supreme court that upholds the highest law of the land. Moving forward with this appointment before the November election is a deeply political move that violates that principle. It will also rush what should be a lengthy and difficult vetting process, with fewer than 40 days until the election. A justice who is willing to ignore the broken precedent and partisan tug of war over an early appointment is not the apolitical actor we as a country need.

President Trump has announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court. Only two Republican senators have confirmed that they will not support moving forward with a nomination, as per the Garland rule. Four total are needed to block the nomination. I could tell you to raise hell (or at least to call your senators), but the double-edged sword of the Supreme Court is that the average citizen has little influence over what goes on. However, if Judge Barrett is appointed, I urge you to remember these broken promises and political games on election day.