We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s seventh annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing what they think is the most important issue of Election 2012. We received close to 1,000 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Tess Saperstein of Dreyfoos School of the Arts in Boca Raton, Florida, and Andrew Giambrone of Yale University. The winners receive a cash award of $1,000 and the finalists $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. Read all the winning essays today. —The Editors

As America inches closer to election day, political discourse centers on the economy. The economy is the most publicized issue of the election, although there is a more substantial issue at stake in November. While the trajectory of the economy will have relatively immediate consequences, the trajectory of the Supreme Court will have a more profound effect on posterity. With four aging justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer—the presidential victor will likely have to appoint at least one justice, if not more, over the course of his term in office. Replacing this many justices carries profound implications for America. An Obama victory, preserving the current state of affairs, would not be likely to divert the Court from its present politicized inclinations, but a Romney victory could turn the Supreme Court into a far-right despot, yielding favorable judicial review for right-wing ideologies and asylum for radical legislation.

A Court after a Romney presidency would be much more, if not “severely,” conservative and could bring significant harm to the economy. It would adversely affect the social safety net, favor corporate personhood, and would ensure that the right-wing paymasters would be able to purchase elections for decades to come. With the recent Court ruling in favor of Citizens United in its case against the FEC, PAC money has effectively become much more influential at the state and local levels, creating a grassroots political machine to advance corporate interests. If money buys Romney the presidency, the Court will be bought with it.

Grover Norquist provided an instructive depiction of how a Romney presidency would function. Addressing the 2012 CPAC convention, Norquist asserted that the ambition was not to audition a leader, noting, “We just need a president to sign stuff.” This frank admission of his intention to use Romney as a puppet has grave significance regarding the Supreme Court and its jurisprudence. Romney has selected Robert Bork to be the chairman of his Justice Advisory Committee. The notion of Bork as a “puppet master” in terms of shaping a Romney administration’s legal ideology is alarming. Nominees for the Court would conform to Bork’s backward philosophy concerning the Constitution.

Contemplate what is at stake, given that a tyrannical conservative Court will undoubtedly bring about an unprecedented disrespect for previous court rulings. The doctrine of stare decisis, by which courts are typically obligated to honor precedents, would most likely be recklessly abandoned in a far-right Court. Perhaps the most notable precedent would be the right to privacy. The radical right is aching to dispose of the freedoms granted under this doctrine. Implications of the defeat of the right to privacy would be the rescindment of the right to an abortion, the access to birth control, LGBT rights and marriage equality, and the right to die, among others. Indeed, many institutions we take for granted would be under attack. Such a Court would pay no heed to the Establishment Clause and would endorse the assertion that the United States is a Christian nation through jurisprudence, allowing prayer in schools and subsequently eroding the freedom of, and from, religion. The “one man-one vote” doctrine would be disregarded, engendering voter discrimination. Civil rights would be watered down, and protections of fair trials disregarded. Indefinite detention would be endorsed, and an Orwellian surveillance state with legal justification would arise. Free speech would be curtailed, and corporate personhood would usurp ordinary American’s rights. Such a Court, falling in line with radical conservative thought, would be hostile to the ideals of the Enlightenment and Natural Law philosophy upon which our nation and Constitution is based.

The right is watching this election with tremendous anticipation. If Republicans buy their way into the presidency and comfortable congressional numbers, our democracy may never recover. Incumbent advantage and the endless flow of money will seal victory after victory for years to come, and with a far-right Court, the agenda of the radical right will come to fruition in this country. An overly politicized Court would help a right-wing legislative and executive branch turn America into a theocratic plutocracy.

Most Americans sit on the sidelines with regards to the Supreme Court. The economic concerns in the impending election weigh heavily upon the minds and conscious of so many hard-working individuals and families. Yet it is imperative, as intellectual leaders and activists who strive toward the enlightened ideal of liberal societal progress, to convene our efforts around a notion of a fair and progressive constitutional jurisprudence. It would be tragic to be remembered for failing to stand up for our rights and the rights of others unable to stand up for themselves.

Should we fail, right-wing hegemony will likely be codified and impervious, a stain upon America’s global standing for generations to come.