The vacant Supreme Court seat due to the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will likely be a win-win for Democrats should President Obama nominate an African American woman to replace Scalia. Republicans vowed to fight any nomination asserting that Pres. Obama should not nominate anyone. GOP leaders and presidential contenders strongly urge that the next President elected in November, 2016 should nominate the next justice. This would mean the country would be without the full highest court for approximately over a year—placing many cases and decisions in disarray. The inauguration of the next President will occur in January, 2017. And any High Court nominations would likely not occur until Spring, 2017, if a replacement is not confirmed in 2016.
President Obama intends to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia in the very near future- despite Republicans complaints. Currently, there are four liberals and four conservatives on the Court. A confirmation of a new justice would likely sway the balance of the Supreme Court. That’s the concern of the Republicans. However, the U.S. Constitution makes clear that the President shall nominate a successor, in the event of a vacancy. It makes no mention of any exceptions in an election year. In more recent times, Justice Kennedy, presently sitting on the bench, was confirmed in an election year- 1988. The tables were reversed in 1988 with a Republican President Ronald Regan and a Democrat Senate. Back then, Mitch McConnell urged the confirmation of Justice Kennedy in an election year. Now he claims the American people should have a voice–with the next election outcome.
With the November, 2016 election looming, if President Obama nominates an African American woman (or man), it could energize the mostly anemic African American electorate. Neither the Clinton nor the Sanders camp has engaged the African American electorate in any meaningful way. At present, many African Americans still do not know or know much about Bernie Sanders. And those who know Hillary Clinton are not sufficiently aroused to bring out large numbers necessary for a win, should she receive the nomination.
The idea of the first African American woman on the Supreme Court could be what’s needed to galvanize African American women. The voting block of Black women had the largest percentage of any voting group that helped to elect and re-elect President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Many Blacks are anemic or lukewarm, at best, towards Sanders and Clinton. The nomination of an African American woman to replace Justice Scalia would be a win-win for Democrats, whether confirmed or not.
The possible backlash against Republicans would likely occur should a potential African American woman be denied confirmation or a vote. It could help to excite, albeit in anger, the necessary base that will be needed for a Democratic win in November. It would raise the stakes for November, 2016. And if an African American woman is nominated and confirmed in 2016, it too will likely raise the consciousness level of African American women. No matter what happens, should President Obama nominate Loretta Lynch, Kamala Harris, Leah Ward Sears, Bernice Donald or any other highly credentialed African American woman to the Supreme Court, it will engage the necessary Black voter base, needed for a Democratic win in November.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer admitted to the Supreme Court and former prosecutor. She is often seen in the media on Al Jazeera America, BET, CBS News, MSNBC, Sky News, Fox 5 DC among others. Her op eds appear in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Afro American. She is a native of Baltimore, MD.