Supreme Court retirements are a topic of recurring political speculation, given the high stakes involved. As the 2024 presidential election nears, rumors are circulating again, and partisan anxieties are running high.
The two oldest justices on the bench, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, are both tenacious conservatives.
Should Democrats lose the Senate and the White House, and Thomas and Alito are replaced by a Republican president, the court would be stacked with young conservatives with decades yet to serve.
“It’s critical. President Biden, who I feel confident will be reelected, needs to be able to put more judges on the bench, federal judges, including Supreme Court. It is absolutely critical that the Senate remain in Democratic hands,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said.
By the standards of Supreme Court justices, who serve for life, 75-year-old Thomas and 73-year-old Alito are not particularly old.
The last justice to retire, Stephen Breyer, stayed on until he was 83. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on the bench at 87: Democrats have never forgiven her for refusing to retire while Barack Obama had the chance to choose her successor.
John Roberts is 68, and the three conservatives appointed by President Trump, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, are all younger than 60.
While Democrats fear a lopsided right-wing majority that lasts generations, Republican Josh Hawley (MO) cautioned that conservatives on the court (unlike their liberal counterparts, for instance) haven't always voted as a bloc.
"Does the next election matter for the court? I think it really does. I don’t know how much of a [conservative] majority it is. I don’t know how stable it is,” he said.
Should Democrats hang onto the White House and the Senate - the latter seems less likely, with multiple vulnerable seats in their hands - and either Thomas or Alito retires, control of the court could flip. In that event, expect the current press attacks on the court's "legitimacy" to vanish in an instant.
Thomas and Alito have both been targets of activist pressure campaigns recently, and neither man has given signs of capitulation, with Alito even turning to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to defend himself.
If conservatives remain in control for as long as some predict, it's possible the rolling coup against the Supreme Court will continue for quite some time.
Biden went on another unhinged tirade Thursday impugning the Supreme Court and its legitimacy after a long overdue ruling ending affirmative action in colleges.
Biden snapped, saying, "This is not a normal court."
"While the court can render a decision, it cannot change what America stands for," he continued.