Doing the math
Let's suppose it's true that the next president of the United States has the power to reshape the Supreme Court for a generation.
"How long is 'a generation'?" you ask. According to this ScienceBlogs website that I found by googling "What is a generation," the answer is 25 years. The hour is late, so I consulted no other sources. 25 years it is.
I am 46 years old. I will be 47 years old when the next president of the United States takes office.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my neck at an unforgiving angle, either in the mirror or in a photo, and I want to close my eyes—just for a second! for half a second!—and weep.
Let's be generous and assume I will make it to age 90. (Way to go, Hot Dog!) This means I would live 43 additional years following the inauguration of the next president of the United States. Those 43 years will be seven years shy of two full generations, which means I'm likely to die under the auspices of many decisions made by the next president's appointed generation of Supreme Court justices. ("Justici"? Start that rumor.)
Noted left-wing hotbed internet paper of record Salon posits that the next president of the United States could appoint up to four Supreme Court justices. FOUR. That's nearly half the deck.
This is probably bad news for a wide-eyed, thin-skinned, east coast elitist liberal feminist like me, who believes in abortion rights and voting rights and LGBTQ rights and public-sector unions and gun control and the separation of church and state.
Here's what Nora Ephron had to say about necks: "You can put makeup on your face and concealer under your eyes and dye on your hair, you can shoot collagen and Botox and Restylane into your wrinkles and creases, but short of surgery, there's not a damn thing you can do about a neck. The neck is a dead giveaway. Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth."
Remember that episode of The West Wing, called "The Short List," where President Bartlet nominates Admiral Adama ("Roberto Mendoza") for an opening on the Supreme Court after rejecting The White Shadow? At one point, while Jed is still on the fence, Sam Seaborn tells him this: "It's not just about abortion, it's about the next 20 years. The '20s and '30s it was the role of government, the '50s and '60s it was civil rights, the next two decades are going to be privacy. I'm talking about the internet. I'm talking about cell phones. I'm talking about health records and who's gay and who's not. Moreover, in a country born on the will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?"
This is from a post at Recode, right after the election: "Donald Trump doesn’t like encryption. He threatened to call for a boycott of Apple products because they wouldn’t undermine the encryption on the iPhone. Trump also loves surveillance. When he was a candidate, he said he wanted to place mosques under U.S. surveillance and create a national database to track Muslims. He is also in favor of NSA mass surveillance. And on the topic of hacking his enemies, Trump said, “I wish I had that power. Man, that would be power.” As president, he will have that power."
Nora Ephron again: "Every so often I read a book about age, and whoever's writing it says it's great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow; it's great to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life. I can't stand people who say things like this. What can they be thinking? Don't they have necks?"
Last weekend I listened to the Recode Media podcast interview with Bob Lefsetz, a music industry writer who is a bit of a crank and/or hothead, in both written and podcast form. He's a smart guy, though, and he calls ’em like he sees ’em, and at one point, when they discuss the election, he says something like "the Supreme Court for the rest of my lifetime is fucked." At first I swept right by that—thinking it was hyperbole, as most things are—but it isn't. This is a man in his sixties. It's the truth, likely for him and likely for me.
But the world doesn't end with his lifetime, or with mine.
It's possible the universe has 10 times more galaxies than we thought...and over a trillion trillion stars.