It’s been an exhausting year and election cycle, and it’s not even close to over. Last week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a pioneer for gender equality and symbol of perseverance — passed away after a long fight against cancer.
For years, liberals worried that Ginsburg would die during Trump’s presidency, cementing a six-to-three conservative majority on the nation’s highest court. Her death — amid an economic crisis, a pandemic and a nationwide reckoning with structural racism — is particularly heartbreaking.
Ginsburg, though not perfect, was a safeguard against the undoing of many progressive achievements. The chance that her seat will be filled by someone who shares her values is incredibly unlikely, with Republican senators moving quickly to nominate and confirm a successor in the 40 days between now and the election.
We at The News-Letter are both sad and scared, and we know many of our readers may feel the same way. We must harness these feelings and turn them into action. We can mourn Ginsburg, but we should also try to honor her legacy, and the upcoming elections offer an opportunity to defend the ideals she came to represent.
One way to mobilize is by donating to candidates who vow to protect the values we support. Just 12 hours after news of the late Justice’s death, donations to ActBlue, the Democratic Party’s fundraising platform, surpassed $30 million. (You could also make a donation to one of Ginsburg’s favorite charities.)
Some Senate races on the ballot in November are competitive, and how struggling incumbent Republicans vote in the hearing for a new justice will impact prospects of re-election.
The fact that the death of one jurist threatens our entire perception of democracy reveals that the system is flawed. Radical change is necessary; we won’t get there in November. But flipping the Senate is a step in the right direction.
If we want this country and its institutions to reflect our values, we need to be active participants in our democracy. For many of us, this is our first opportunity to vote. Now — more than ever — it is important to exercise this right.
We know that this right is not accessible to all. Our own president does not attempt to hide rampant voter suppression across the country, and in many states, predominantly Black and Latinx felons are disenfranchised for life.
In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, apathy is understandable. This contributes to the disparities in turnout across age groups, with people over 65 voting at almost twice the rate of 18- to 29-year-olds in the 2018 election.
In an attempt to increase turnout among young people, Hopkins Votes, the University’s nonpartisan voting initiative, is working hard to help every student organization commit to 100 percent of eligible voter registration. In addition, the University has partnered with TurboVote, an online platform with tailored information on elections.
However, Hopkins can and should do more to promote civic engagement among its students. Some professors have set assignments that encourage civic pursuits, and others aren’t holding class on Election Day. Why isn’t the University giving all students, faculty and staff the day off to vote on Nov. 3? Hopkins should provide ballot collection services and shuttles to polling stations and, in the future, follow the example of our peer institutions and establish a polling station on campus.
There is also so much we can do as individuals. If you are able, vote. And after you cast your ballot, volunteer at your local polling station. Put pressure on your representatives if you can vote in a state that permanently disenfranchises prior felons. Help your friends and family find out when and how to vote; with mail-in ballots this year, deadlines are especially important.
And after election season, know that our work is by no means done. Turn your passion for Ginsburg’s life and legacy into making a difference in our country’s future.