It’s almost impossible to overstate the transformative effect on American politics ignited by the death of this one woman, at this one moment.
The far-ranging potential consequences from the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice and liberal legal icon, will start immediately, beginning in the election campaign that determines whether Donald Trump gets a second presidential term.
And they could last for decades in the staggering array of issues to be litigated before the court — some of whose consequences reach far beyond America’s borders and could have global repercussions.
Here are five changes prompted by her death.
It pours fuel on an overheating election
It’s been distressingly common to hear this election described as a do-or-die moment for American democracy.
It was the theme of Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention. Meanwhile, figures inside the Trump administration, and close to the president, and on talk radio, have evoked scenarios of post-election violence.
Which is to say this election was already heated enough, with a president insisting he’s being cheated, legal fights over mail-in voting, deaths at protests and armed demonstrations.
The stakes have now risen.
“I’m genuinely worried,” Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Joseph Ellis said in an interview Saturday.
“The fate of the republic [has not been] genuinely at stake [since the Civil War].… I think we’re in a moment analogous to that now.”
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that America will face its most difficult months in a generation, and asked for prayers for the country.
It means conservative court dominance, potentially for decades
The court recently had a 5-4 conservative tilt. It’s now 5-3, and will be 6-3 if Trump gets his nominee confirmed.
Now, as bitter partisanship makes it harder to pass bills in Congress than a few decades ago, parties frequently rely on courts to resolve political disputes.
One big case before the new, Ginsburg-less court involves a challenge to the law known as Obamacare — hearings are scheduled for Nov. 10 on the Affordable [Health] Care Act.
Obama’s signature law, which extended health coverage to millions, appears in grave danger: the law survived one earlier challenge by a single vote.
This court could even decide the presidential election.
In 2000, the high court ended a Florida recount and made George W. Bush president; the numerous fights this year over mail-in ballots could be far, far messier.
Longer-term battles are inevitable over abortion, and over myriad presidential executive actions. Take climate-change regulations and immigration rules.
Obama signed a flurry of such climate and immigration executive orders; future ones would inevitably be challenged in a more hostile court.
“It would be the strongest conservative majority we’ve seen,” former U.S. federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno told CBC News.
“[Now you have chief justice] John Roberts potentially sometimes voting with the minority. [But with a change now] you’d have a potentially secure block of conservative votes.
“That would impact so many things in this country.”
Other big changes could be economic. In his book, Supreme Inequality, author Adam Cohen argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has, for most of American history, favoured the wealthy and powerful, with a rare exception being the 1960s court led by Earl Warren.
He said the court has recently been a major driver of American inequality — stripping away union powers, allowing corporate money into politics and undermining the integration and funding of schools in minority areas.
Page 1 of his book carries an anecdote about Bader Ginsburg: she wrote the dissent for the losing side in a case involving a Black man subjected to racist abuse at work.
It upends the election focus
The court fight threatens to overshadow the presidential election issue Democrats hoped to focus on: the pandemic, which has killed around 200,000 Americans.
It will play out, day after day, as voters cast ballots. Voting has already started. Ballots are being mailed out, and in-person polling stations are open in some states.
The Supreme Court has been a winning issue for Trump before. In 2016, more than a quarter of Trump voters told pollsters it was the reason they voted for him.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/GOP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@GOP</a> We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!
Trump cemented his alliance with social conservatives by vowing to name only conservatives to the court, and he took the unusual step of releasing a list of candidates in advance.
He’s done it again: Trump released his new list of picks just over a week ago. He’s promised to announce his choice, likely a woman, within days.
Intriguingly, when asked Saturday about one candidate, Barbara Lagoa, Trump praised her and mentioned, unprompted, that she was “Hispanic” and “from Florida” — a critical voting group in a critical swing state.
There’s no guarantee this issue will help him. The intense upcoming debate on abortion is no slam-dunk for conservatives.
Some polling suggests a strong majority of Americans want to preserve, at least in part, the landmark abortion-rights decision Roe v. Wade.
It’s one of the first points mentioned in a fundraising letter to supporters from Democratic VP candidate Kamala Harris.
“Today, we fight for [Bader Ginsburg’s] legacy,” said Harris’ note.
Democratic donors certainly appeared energized: the party said it raised tens of millions of dollars in the hours after Bader Ginsburg’s death.
In an inimitably American political phenomenon, both parties were actively fundraising upon the judge’s death.
The Trump campaign released a similar message to supporters.
This sudden effect of this debate will likely resonate unevenly across the country, helping Republicans in some places but not others.
It’s illustrated in the different reactions from Republican senators involved in tough re-election fights.
Just compare their reactions to a map showing church attendance rates per state: Republicans running in more religious states dove headfirst into the fight, which will inevitably raise hot-button social issues.
It triggers a brawl on Capitol Hill
The power to pick judges rests with the president. The power to confirm them belongs to the Senate.
Right now Republicans control the Senate with 53 votes, to 47 Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents.
Those numbers would not, until recently, have guaranteed confirmation: for generations, 60 votes were required for most major actions in the Senate, but because Congress is so frequently paralyzed, first Democrats, then Republicans, began chipping away at the so-called filibuster rule.
Now it takes a simple majority, of 50 or 51, to confirm a judge. And it will be close.
The first question is how quickly Republicans proceed. Trump tweeted his own suggestion that the party move fast: “We have this obligation, without delay!”
His party has flexibility on timing a final vote. It can happen before or after the Nov. 3 election: the current Senate term lasts two months beyond the election, until Jan. 3, and the current presidential term lasts until Jan. 20.
It’s taken an average of just over two months to confirm justices since the 1970s. It used to be faster, in less-partisan eras, and it could be faster again with the new simple-majority rule.
Democrats are vowing to put up whatever fight they can — with legislative delay tactics, threats of revenge if they regain the chamber and efforts to embarrass Republican senators in tough re-election races.
Then there are the insults.
Both parties are calling each other hypocrites: Republicans for reversing themselves on their 2016 declaration that presidents shouldn’t name a judge close to an election, and Democrats for reversing themselves in the other direction.
Yet Republicans likely hold the upper hand in this nomination battle. They controlled the Senate in 2016 and they control it now.
It foreshadows a clash over institutions
The Republican Party has won the popular vote in a presidential election precisely once since 1988. Yet it has a stranglehold over the Supreme Court.
And Democrats are livid.
There are growing calls within the party to overhaul the country’s institutions to make them more representative of the country’s actual, increasingly diverse, demographics.
Obama spelled out some of this agenda in his eulogy for the late civil-rights hero John Lewis: he called for full votes in Congress for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, a new voting-rights law and an end to the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule.
Many progressives want to go even further — and expand the Supreme Court: meaning add new judges.
Biden has opposed the idea and said Democrats would come to regret it.
But the idea is growing on the left.
The Democrat who leads the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Saturday said that if Republicans proceed with this nomination, Democrats should immediately move to expand the court should they win the Senate.
Franklin Roosevelt famously failed in an effort to pack the court in the 1930s.
If Sen. McConnell and <a href=”https://twitter.com/SenateGOP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SenateGOP</a> were to force through a nominee during the lame duck session—before a new Senate and President can take office—then the incoming Senate should immediately move to expand the Supreme Court. 1/2 <a href=”https://t.co/BDYQ0KVmJe”>https://t.co/BDYQ0KVmJe</a>
He was frustrated that conservative judges were blocking aspects of his New Deal, the Depression Era social-safety net and public-works program.
Cohen’s book says Roosevelt achieved something even if he failed to pack the court: after that, the judges stopped cancelling his policies.
Democrats’ leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, has left open the possibility of shifting to a simple majority vote on all bills if his party wins back the chamber.
On Saturday, in a conference call with party members, several outlets reported him saying that if Republicans replace Ginsburg now, “Nothing is off the table.”
A look at stock market history around elections and whether politics really matter – CNBC
Does it matter for stocks who wins the White House? Is there anything unusual about the candidates this year that could impact the markets, regardless of who wins?
For answers, we turn to Ed Clissold, chief U.S. Strategist for Ned Davis Research, who has studied elections and the impact on markets going back to 1900.
This Q&A was derived from written research and an interview with Clissold. It has been edited for brevity.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about this election and the impact on the markets. What’s your take?
Part of the problem is that this is an unusual situation. The incumbent is in the middle of a recession and a big drop in the market, even though that occurred earlier in the year. I don’t mean a “recession” as technically defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); I mean that a large portion of the U.S. believes we are in a recession.
Why is that perception important?
When those conditions are in place, the incumbent is a serious underdog. Since 1900, the incumbent party has won five times and lost nine when there was a 20% decline in the DJIA or a recession in the election year. But the last incumbent to win under these circumstances was Truman in 1948. Since 1952, no party has retained the White House when there was either a 20% decline in the markets or a recession, and both have taken place in 2020.
But isn’t this a unique recession? This was caused by Covid-19.
Yes. Because the cause of the 2020 recession is an exogenous shock, one of the biggest questions heading into the fall is whether voters will blame President Trump for the economy. Most recessions have a more complicated genesis than this one, and Trump is certainly trying to make the case that he is the better one to handle this.
Is there anything unique about Biden? He is proposing changes in the tax code on both a personal and corporate level. That matters to Wall Street, doesn’t it?
Yes. The main concerns we have heard from our clients is that higher taxes and more regulations would be detrimental to stocks.
OK, you’ve made it clear the circumstances are unusual this year. But what about the historical record? Does the stock market do better or worse when a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House?
The markets tend to go up whether there is a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. When adjusted for inflation, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained an average of 3.8% annually under Democrats since 1900, versus 1.1% under Republicans.
Why is that?
The President is not as influential on the economy as many people think. There are many factors that drive returns and who is in the White House is only one of many factors, including the fact that the U.S. is a capitalist society, where the means of production is mostly in private hands, and that there is a court system that enforces contracts.
What about when one party controls both the Congress and the White House?
When Republicans control both the Congress and the White House, returns have averaged 7.09% a year. Under Democratic presidents, the market has risen faster when there has been a check on their power. When Democrats control the Congress and the Presidency, the market has risen an average of 2.96% a year, but 5.21% with a Democratic President and a Republican Congress.
What about immediately after an election, going into the end of the year?
The market tends to perform better when the incumbent party wins than when the incumbent party loses.
Why is that?
It’s likely because the market often reacts to uncertainty, and a change in party leadership represents an additional unknown.
Does it matter for that short period whether it is a Republican or Democrat who has won or lost?
The strongest gains going into the end of the year occur when incumbent Republicans win, and the biggest losses when incumbent Republicans have lost, on average, likely because Republicans often positioned themselves as pro-business.
Does that outperformance when the Republicans have lost extend into the following year?
No. That relative performance has reversed in post-election years, with the strongest average gain in years following incumbent Republican losses.
So what does this tell us? Seems like this debate about the Republican vs. Democrat impact on stocks is a lot about perception.
Yes. Party control may be more about sentiment than fundamentals in most cases. Also, once the election is over, investors can focus on other things, like earnings, economic growth, or interest rates, so whatever sentiment-driven market action that occurs in the election year tends to fade and reverse itself.
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US VP warns Dems against playing politics over vaccine – Anadolu Agency
US Vice President Mike Pence has warned Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris against playing politics with COVID-19 issues.
Biden, Harris, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, need to “stop playing politics with people’s lives by undermining confidence in a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine,” Pence told Fox News on Sunday.
“The president has speeded up the process through Operation Warp Speed, but we cut no corners on safety, and we are not going to distribute a coronavirus vaccine until the FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] and independent evaluation say it is safe and effective for the American people,” he added.
The FDA approved Thursday Gilead Sciences’ Remdesivir, a drug touted by President Donald Trump who received it earlier this month after contracting COVID-19.
On Friday, the FDA also gave the green light to Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca to continue their vaccine trials after both companies earlier paused their trials as some participants in trials became ill.
Some Democrats have claimed Trump was acting reckless in coronavirus treatment options, arguing the president has been expediting trials to have a vaccine ready before the election on Nov. 3.
“I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said last month.
The US administration implemented Operation Warp Speed, which offers to pay Pfizer and BioNTech $1.95 billion for 100 million doses if their vaccine proves “safe and effective”, and a $1.6 billion deal with Novavax to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses by next January.
The US has more than 8.63 million cases and over 225,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, figures show over 43 million infections and more than 1.15 million deaths.
Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – The Battlefords News-Optimist
OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.
The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.
“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.
“And nothing could be further from the truth.”
It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.
“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.
“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”
The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.
A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.
In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.
But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .
“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.
While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.
Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.
“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.
Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.
“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.
“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”
The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.
But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.
“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.
“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.
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