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Opinion  

Lifetime appointments a huge mistake

End lifetime appointments

Given that it is presidential election season in the United States, I am certain that we, the United Empire Loyalists who chose to dissent from radical republican ideas, are tired of hearing about the ongoing travails of our cousins. However, with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who served on the Supreme Court of these United States for 27 years, it is timely to revisit both the significant differences between our judicial systems, as well as the ramifications of this vacancy.

Notorious RBG was 87 when she left this world, a physical impossibility in our Dominion, where the retirement age for supreme justices in Canada is 75. Without getting into questions around health or soundness of mind, the fact that becoming a member of SCOTUS is a life sentence in turn influences partisan presidents and senators when it comes to nominations. The stakes are infinitely higher in America than Canada, which explains much of their drama over new justices.

For all its bluster, Congress and the president do not have either tool that is so rarely used here: “the notwithstanding clause” or “the Supremacy of Parliament.” In Canada, elected MPs could actually reject or review nearly any decision made by our robed magistrates. But in America, SCOTUS is the final authority, capable of overturning everything from local ordinances to executive orders. As such, the partisan need for a packed bench intensifies astronomically.

Which brings us to the current psycho-drama in these United States: with the death of the unabashedly liberal Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and the current state of political polarization, all in the midst of the last 40 days before a new president is elected, the reactionary stances on both sides are understandable. And if one thought the election could not get any more chaotic, what we have witnessed thus far is likely the tip of the iceberg - politically, all hell will now break loose.

My bias is well known, but to use a different take, let us all acknowledge that if councils, state legislatures, and Congress, in cooperation with their various executives, did their job, the importance of the highest court in the land would diminish. Furthermore, if chief magistrates in both Canada and America stopped twisting laws to fit their own bias - an act fully admitted to by retired or senior members repeatedly - judicial decisions would not become political bombshells.

It is also important to point out that enemies learn from each other’s battle tactics. While SCOTUS always suffered and participated in political chicanery, Americans owe FDR the blame of openly proposing to stack and expand the court to push through an agenda, which eventually resulted in the sudden, newfound support for his New Deal amongst the justices. Such a tactic has been brazenly discussed recently again by leading personalities in the Democratic Party.

Is it any wonder then that Republicans, with their president and majority in the Senate, would seek to fill RBG’s vacancy before the election in November? Without putting too fine a point on it, people to the right in America, particularly those in flyover country or proudly calling themselves “deplorables,” have learned that it is better to win ugly than lose nobly. That lesson was taught to them by those who sneer and swear at their pro-gun, pro-life, pro-faith stances.

As a final point, those on the left should check the facts before joining the cacophony. RBG’s decisions were not nearly as progressive as many are now claiming. True, she was a virulently pro-choice, pro-gun control, and left-leaning civil libertarian on the balance of her votes but the majority of her decisions affirmed mainstream neoliberal concepts about everything from fossil fuels to statism. In short, corporations likely gained more from her than citizens ever did.

Ultimately, Ginsberg’s legacy will remain a hotly contested topic for years to come. It is my hope that the right and left in America realize that lifelong appointments have no place in an “enlightened republic,” as they only serve to intensify the inevitable vitriol that follows.



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