The 2020 election landscape has changed with the velocity of a tennis match. The loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been seized upon by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell to give new momentum to the Republicans as prospects for celebration on November 3 appeared to be slipping away.
After her lifetime of service that moved the nation forward, the Republicans will, for power and advantage, deny Justice Ginsburg her last request, to have her seat filled by the next president of the United States. Republicans are not capable of speedy action regarding the numerous crises facing this country, yet Trump and McConnell will move quickly to invigorate their base with the appointment of a justice who will solidify the conservative grip on the Supreme Court for generations to come. Past decisions that improved the lives of marginalized Americans, including the LGBTQ+ community, are threatened. Senate Democrats know they cannot stop power-driven Republicans from the ultimate hypocrisy — the complete reversal of all McConnell and his Republican Senate said and did to rob President Obama of his Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, in early 2016 because it was an election year.
While Democrats mourn the death and celebrate the life of Ginsburg, who found her way into the hearts and minds of the American people, the Republicans focus on power and advantage, hoping her death and the sure-to-come fight over her replacement will dominate the headlines, pushing their failures away from the glare of the lead story.
The elections of 2020, presidential and congressional, are about one thing: survival. The survival of the country, the rule of law, and, as climate change proves itself real, the planet are all at stake. The loss of Ginsburg will move the Supreme Court firmly right with profound consequences as Trump appoints her replacement. In 2020 the quest for survival reaches even another level. It’s about in-your-face, day-to-day survival. There’s a virus in the air that can kill you and those close to you. Over 200,000 Americans have died, and the number will increase as Trump continues to promise a vaccine on the horizon while doing nothing to control COVID-19 now.
Wildfires burn throughout the West, engulfing whole towns and ravaging record numbers of acres in California, Oregon, and Washington, while turning the air dangerous far and wide. Fire season is just getting started. Powerful hurricanes, one after another, threaten the Gulf Coast, causing a different type of deadly and costly destruction. A devasted economy makes every day a crisis for too many facing food uncertainty, evictions, and increasing debt with no job prospects in sight. Racial injustice is rampant, and the demand for justice can be ignored no longer.
Trump doesn’t care. He just wants to be reelected. He’s too busy stoking division and creating doubt about the legitimacy of an election yet to be held. He tells lie after lie, pressures those in his administration to do his bidding, and holds downright dangerous rallies in the age of COVID. He knows what a super spreader is, and he knows what the threat of climate change is all about. Commonsense action and the truth just don’t fit his agenda. The incumbent candidate has made it clear you are insignificant whether you are solid blue or a loyal MAGA hat wearer. Trump is concerned only with his own survival in his accustomed lifestyle. A second term is imperative, and he will do, say, and promise anything for the win.
He is dangerous. Everything, including your life, is politicized. Bob Woodward’s on-the-record recordings offer Trump’s own voice as proof. Some who voted for Trump in 2016 are dead today because of their belief in his con. In 2020 the con continues from the White House. He talks of miracle vaccines, trying to minimize safety concerns, and tells us inadequate forest management by Democrats is the primary cause of unprecedented devastating forest fires. Science doesn’t speak in self-serving lies and bombast, so it must be rejected by Trump. His own words tell you he doesn’t care about the consequences of his lies and actions or inactions.
American voters will make a choice about Trump in November that will determine our collective survival along with our personal survival. Trump has no clear vision of America’s future except a desire to rule like the autocrats he so admires — and to stay out of prison. The Republican Party has become a cesspool that will follow Trump down the deadly road of science denial, engage in voter suppression and intimidation, chase discredited theories that absolve Trump of accepting Russian assistance to win in 2016 while he does it again in 2020, wallow in hypocrisy, and spread any misinformation, Russian or not, that serves its needs. All are acceptable if the result is one more Republican Electoral College win and they hold the Senate. Nothing is too low. Trump rants about losing only if the election is rigged, and threats of post-election chaos and violence grow louder. Expect a contested election if Trump loses as his setup for challenging vote by mail continues unabated. A Supreme Court stacked with Trump appointees would be an advantage in a legal fight certain to reach the high court.
Attorney General William Barr stands with Trump, not the American people, and the consequences to democracy are dire. Meaningful discussion about policy issues such as health care, green energy, and climate change is impossible in the cacophony created by Trump. It all comes down to your survival and your vote for a steady hand to right the ship, or for more fantastic promises and lies. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sadly raises the stakes of the upcoming election even higher. May we be as tough as she was, and may enough Republican senators finally find their conscience.
Susan SurfTone is a musician, former FBI agent, and regular contributor to The Advocate.