The following table of Supreme Court Justices by seat was compiled using the following sources:
The Potential for the Most Liberal Supreme Court in Decades (NYT: The Upshot 2/18/16)
As I am wont to do, I’ve added red and blue to categorize party or a left-center partisanship. The partisanship of the judges is based on the Martin-Quinn scored used effectively in a couple of graphics in the NYT piece above.
Table One: US Supreme Court Seat by Year.
As you can see from this admittedly simplistic chart if Scalia’s seat 9 is occupied by someone appointed by a Democrat who has left-of-center leanings on topics such as corporate power, women’s rights, gun control, and campaign financing then there will be a “fundamental transformation” of our political structure as people like Glenn Beck have been frightening their listeners about ever since President Obama used that phrase.
Scalia’s replacement will more than likely be that 5th left-of-center judge that I’ve not seen during my adult lifetime. The Republican leadership lead by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell understands that they must pull out all the stops to pander to their evangelical and low-income/wealth Republican voters who have been sold the lie that America as they understand it is the one protected by Justices like Antonin Scalia where money is speech, the 2nd Amendment meant that any US governing agency could not restrict armament ownership, the struggle for civil rights for all citizens is as good as done, workers do not require special protections against their right to organize, marriage is for men and woman only, and state governments have the right to in-effect ban women from seeking abortions.
In short the line on the right will be that we are losing our Judaeo-Christian principles and heritage to the liberal heathens and in these types of struggles, political hardball including abdicating one’s Constitutional duties to an extent never seen in our Country’s history would remain a righteous cause.
One more thing, please note from the graph that the reason we have gotten where we have with a consistently right wing bench is 12 of the last 16 Supreme Court Justices have been nominated by Republican presidents who have had intense pressure since Roe vs. Wade from their religious base to appoint conservative Justices. An example? Does anyone remember the outrage from the Right when George W. Bush had the audacity to nominate family friend Harriet Myers that in the end resulted in the President withdrawing his nomination and appointing the very conservative Samuel Alito to the bench?
I am decidedly not a civics expert, but after the President, the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House wouldn’t the most consequential people in government in the US be the Supreme Court justices?