Last week when I was watching the presidential debate, a member of the audience asked the nominees what they would look for in a Supreme Court Justice considering the next president may have the opportunity to pick two or three Justices. For the past three months, I have been studying the Supreme Court with the Lincoln High School Constitution Team. Constitution Team is a national event that breaks up the Constitution into six units. Each unit prepares answers to questions about the Constitution and Lincoln High School has won the national title in three of the last five years.
The answers that the nominees gave were fascinating. Hillary Clinton said she would choose someone who understands the “way the world really works”, “understands what people are up against”, someone who would “get dark money out of politics,” and “doesn’t always side with corporate interests.” Donald Trump said vaguely that he would choose someone “in the mold of Justice Scalia,” who is “highly thought of and beautifully reviewed” who would “respect the constitution of the united states,” and the “2nd amendment.”
Both candidate missed an essential point. The correct answer comes from understanding the history of the Supreme Court.
If given the opportunity to choose a Justice I would look for someone of minority descent. Until 1967 when Thurgood Marshal took a seat on the bench, every Supreme Court Justice in American history was white and male. Since then, there has only been one African American Justice and he remains on the bench today. Before Sandra Day O’Connor became a justice in 1981, every Justice in American history was male. In the past 35 years, only three women have become Justices – two of whom were appointed by current president Barack Obama and are currently working as Justices. Of the 112 Justices in American history, 81% have been protestant, 10% have been catholic,, 7% have been jewish, and only one judge has been unaffiliated. This means there has never been a buddhist, muslim, or atheist judge. Every Justice in history has identified as straight, there has never been any Asian or Native American Justices and only one judge has been of latino descent.
The problem with this lack of diversity is that it is a completely misrepresentative picture of the United States. A Nation that prides itself on being built from immigrants with the most diverse population in the world, holds an undiverse branch of government. 7.6% of the U.S. population is of Asian or Native American descent, 22.3% is religiously unaffiliated, 51% is female, and 17% is Latino. These numbers fail to be represented in a government “for the people.” Although it is no surprise that the government is run by the majority considering all but one president has been white, straight, and male, it would be refreshing to see these numbers reflected in the answers of the next leader of the free world.
Neither candidate spoke of the issue that a branch of our government fails to represent the population of the nation. In order for democracy to work, there must be a group of people that represents the national population. Without this, we will never reach racial or social equality. There is a strong correlation between the culture of a judge and the way they vote. Women judges vote in favor of women’s rights issues, African American Judges vote in favor of black’s rights issues.
Listening to these two people answer this question made me realize why they are the two least liked candidates of all time: neither person understands the issues that relates to everyday people. They give speeches about how the nation is torn over issues of race but fail to demonstrate solutions to fix them. By saying that the ideal Supreme Court Justice is someone who is well regarded or would get dark money out of politics is missing the answer that the public wants to hear.
Voters are craving a politician who will offer solutions to the problems of the people, not a way to fix their own.
Watch the question and answer by clicking this link: