You often hear the refrain “elections have consequences” and that who you vote for matters. Debates, then, serve the important role of highlighting candidates’ positions so that the electorate can make an informed decision come Election Day.
So far this presidential election season, debate moderators have asked both Democratic and GOP candidates plenty of questions about how they would wield executive power and work with Congress to achieve their policy agenda. But there’s one branch of government that has been notably missing from all of the debate moderators’ questions: the Supreme Court. With the power to override presidential and congressional action that it deems unconstitutional, the Court plays no small role in our government. It should play no small role in our debates, either, since the next president will likely have the opportunity to replace one or more of the three justices who will be over the age of 80 on Inauguration Day (and a fourth who will turn 80 within the next two years). The next president could radically change the composition of the Court.
Because the stakes couldn’t be higher in this election, AFJ has joined 35 other groups to sign a letter to television executives demanding that the remaining primary debates include questions about the Supreme Court and the kind of justices that the candidates would seek to appoint if elected president. The 2016 presidential election is for two branches of government, not one. Whoever is voted into the Oval Office will decide who sits on the Supreme Court. Voters deserve a full discussion on what that future Supreme Court may look like before they make that decision.