2016: The Supreme Court Election

Just thinking a bit about the context of the upcoming Presidential election. For those that don’t know, I tend to write a good bit about such events, largely doing such writing as an (unpaid) job for the last 3 of them.

Certain themes arise around them, and a friend of mine, I think, struck the bass chord of this one….it’s about the SCOTUS.

For those unfamiliar with the term, let’s get introduced. SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States. SCotUS, if you are a stickler for capitalization, but that looks weird and is also hard to type, so SCOTUS, is often used as an abbreviation.

Here are the current Supreme Court Justices and their ages…

John G. Roberts: January 27, 1955 : 60 yrs.
Antonin Scalia: March 11, 1936: 79 yrs.
Anthony M. Kennedy: July 23, 1936: 78 yrs.
Clarence Thomas: June 23, 1948: 66 yrs.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: March 15, 1933: 82 yrs.
Stephen G. Breyer: August 15, 1938: 76 yrs.
Samuel Anthony Alito: April 1, 1950: 65 yrs.
Sonia Sotomayor: June 25, 1954: 60 yrs.
Elena Kagan: April 28, 1960: 54 yrs.

Now comes the kicker….via google (and it’s one of those common answers)…


78.7 yrs. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Supreme Court justices are retiring later and later. Before 1971, the average age of retiring Supreme Court justices was 68.3.

Even at 79 years…that puts three justices over that range *at the start* of the next President’s term (and one right on the cusp). Scalia and Ginsburg are on opposite ends of the spectrum, Kennedy is often a swing vote.

So it’s a 2-1 or 1-2 split on the “old guard” judges, if you will, pushing the limits of what the human mind can endure. The next President is likely to shift that to a 3-0 split, one way or the other, in finding their replacements.

This turns a court that has been on the 5-4, 4-5 knife’s edge for the last 20 years into a 6-3 machine that can decide some law….one way or the other.

There is, to my eyes as a consistent watcher, a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE in the ideologies that drive the important decision making in our political parties. From voting rights to access to healthcare to women’s rights to foreign wars to regulating Wall Street to accepting established science to…seriously…freaking science…to many other things…there are just soo many differences.

And these differences show up in legal theory. The SCOTUS is one-third of our government, it’s a BIG DEAL. It’s not very often that we get such a clear and straightforward VOTE in which direction it goes.

This Presidential election we do. We get to decide the Supreme Court.

I’ll be coming back to this theme, again and again and again, one would assume, but I do think it is terribly important. That’s what this election is about, to me.

The personalities are somewhat secondary, although endlessly entertaining/frustrating. It’s just important to keep sight of what is important in the chaos, and in this election, what’s important is the Supreme Court.

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