It might appear strange to many British folk who are following the campaigns by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, that since whoever gets elected in November’s US Presidential election will be able to nominate justices for the US Supreme Court, and such is the significance of such appointments, it has become an election issue. While it would be over simplistic to say so, whoever is appointed as a judge (there is currently one vacancy) could exercise considerable sway on life in the USA, far more so than anything similar in the UK. This will to a significant extent depend on whether the judge is liberally inclined, and subscribes to the notion the US Constitution as a living breathing document, to be interpreted according to the spirit of the age, or he/she is conservative inclined, viewing the US Constitution as something that is effectively set in stone.
This has enormous ramifications for some of the electorate, given it is generally deemed, if elected, that Clinton would appoint liberal leaning judges, while Trump would appoint conservative leaning judges. Because the liberal view prevailed (5:4) in what was perhaps the last major ruling by the Supreme Court, when last year it was ruled that same sex marriage was a constitutional right for all US citizens, this effectively put an end to the conundrum whereby some states voted to allow same sex marriage and others didn’t, along with implications that will likely follow, especially regarding those individuals who do not recognize same sex marriage on religious grounds. I have considered some of the related issues in my earlier Clinton / Trump, “US Supreme Court gay decision” and “US Supreme Court judge dies” blogs.
I was reminded, of the part played by Supreme Court justices, earlier today, when I read the following on Franklin Graham’s Facebook page (he seems to be posting most days, these days), although others, like James Dobson, have already expressed similar such sentiments. “Tonight the nation will be watching as candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the debate platform. The public needs to recognize that this presidential election is not about personalities the way the media is trying to make it sound. What’s at stake is the future of the Supreme Court. This court and their rulings on issues of religious freedom, marriage, abortion and much more will impact this country for our lifetime and the lifetime of our children and grandchildren. There’s so much on the line here. Our next president will immediately appoint one justice, and could appoint three or even possibly up to five during their term. As you pray about who to vote for, you need to read up on their potential nominees so you will know where they stand. Donald J. Trump has released a list of names that he would choose from. Hillary Clinton has not. Maybe in the comments below, you would like to tag her and encourage her to release her list so we can see who she would appoint. America needs to know. The most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court.”
I have already given my view on the two candidates and, while recognising the grave implications regarding outcome, remain ambivalent and undecided, as well as my inclination for a more conservative philosophy with respect to how to interpret the US Constitution, when US Supreme Court justices are called upon to make a ruling. I believe it was right for Franklin Graham to point this issue out, but I also believe this is one of many issues that voters need to be consider when deciding how they are to vote. I hope in tonight’s TV debate Clinton is challenged regarding who she would nominate to the Supreme Court if she were president, just as I hope Trump will be taken to task over some of his hate leaning rhetoric. As for the debate, it is something that has long been anticipated and many have been looking forward to this. I hope it will give people a chance to assess the two candidates. Pity it is past my bedtime!