Democrats in Congress are increasingly concerned about the age of Joe Biden as he enters the next election cycle. Age certainly does come with physical constraints, particularly in the top role of the American government. However, the Democrats may want to shift their focus away from Biden and onto the Supreme Court.
Currently, the Court is in GOP control, with six of the nine seats occupied by justices appointed by Republican presidents. Those three liberal justices--Ketanji Brown Jackson, appointed by Biden; Elena Kagan, appointed by Obama; and Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by Obama--all, respectively, are 51, 63, and 68 years old.
The consequences of liberal justices’ advanced age can already be seen: the conservative bloc of the court can reach a 5-4 split even if they outnumber the liberal 4-3 wing. This was demonstrated in their horrific overturn of the Roe v. Wade decision.
What happens if one of the liberal justices suddenly leaves the court due to death or retirement? With the Supreme Court already 6-3 in favor of the GOP, the results could be disastrous. The already-established conservative shift on a 6-3 court could become a generational majority if an additional liberal justice leaves the bench.
Given the current age of the liberal justices, it’s critical to assess the risk of such an event occurring. The actuarial data approximates that in a group of women aged 69, 63, and 52 years old, there is an 18% chance that one of them will die in the next 5.5 years. If you subtract the 4% chance of a death in the next 1.5 years, the chance of a death in the next presidential term drops to 14%.
Even the most generous state of mind finds this figure unacceptably high. The chance of rolling a one on a six-sided die has a 14% chance, as does the chance of a Phoenix day with a bit of cloud cover. A 14% chance of a 7-2 Supreme Court would be devastating for liberal policies in the United States for years to come.
Given the statistics, it’s time for President Biden and the Democratic Party to take the risk of 7-2 seriously. Justice Kagan, Sotomayor, and other older justices should consider resignation or retirement. Biden’s administration must pressure them to step down and Democrats should forgo the “Notorious RBG” type of celebrity campaigning that encourages older justices to stay beyond their terms. Finally, it’s pertinent that Biden use his political capital to appoint younger justices who can serve beyond the next election cycle.
In short, the old saying is true: age matters. With the Supreme Court increasingly playing an influential role in politics, the Democrats must take action before it’s too late. A 14% chance of a 7-2 Supreme Court is not worth taking.