It is often claimed by the large disillusioned masses that the two primary choices in this Presidential election are “too similar” or that once they get elected, the differences between the two sides are imperceptibly small. While such a notion seems silly to those who actually understand and study politics, it would be hard to imagine even the most cynical Americans try to argue that the Supreme Court is equally ineffective.
On Monday October 29, Noah Feldman wrote an editorial for Bloomberg, titled “This Election Is About the Court, Not the Economy.” In his article, Feldman opens by working from the assumption that regardless of who wins in November, the differences between the two candidates will be nearly non-existent because the election will be close, giving neither candidate much of a mandate, and they will have to work with a legislature that is likely to be split between democrats and republicans.
Although Feldman is clearly exaggerating the similarities between the two candidates for effect, he raises a very interesting point later on. Four of the sitting Supreme Court Justices are over 74 years old, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the eldest at 79. This means that a generation of Supreme Court decisions could be affected by the winner of this election, because if either Justice Kennedy of Justice Scalia retire, Mitt Romney could solidify another stretch of conservative majority, while President Obama could potentially shift the majority on the bench.
While the legislative process is deliberately slow to try to eliminate rash decisions made in times of heightened emotion or hysteria, the Supreme Court does not endure the same obstacles. Although an issue must obviously come before the court before they can make a ruling on it, history has shown, whether for better or for worse, the Supreme Court can be a catalyst for quick, drastic change. Cases such as Roe v. Wade, Miranda v. Arizona, and Brown v. Board of Education have been some of the most important government actions in American history. Even if people have become disillusioned with the general political process, it is hard to argue that it is not worth voting next week given the likelihood that this election could determine who holds the majority in the Supreme Court.