Against the background of a hotly contested presidential election, the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg offers a moment to reflect on her life and the Supreme Court.
Persistence is an appropriate characteristic for RBG, as she was discriminated against in her chosen career at every step because of her marital status and her gender.
The second woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ginsburg was an example of achieving the American dream. She believed that equal justice under law only had meaning if it applied to every single American.
Every independent woman knows that if she uses a credit card today, thanks to RBG, she did not have to have a man co-sign the application.
RGB’s life and conduct tell us much about America. Many marvel at the warm friendship she enjoyed with her colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia. Differing opinions did not turn comradeship to hostility. We should emulate that.
Not only was RBG a towering 5-foot figure, but the Supreme Court has played a crucial role in American history. It was the court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1955 that said separate is not equal, an important milestone in the long stony road to equal rights for all Americans. This and other decisions infuriated conservatives for years.
Four and a half years ago, when Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Judge Merrick Garland, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in.
Video clips of Sens. Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Chuck Grassley and McConnell committing themselves to this principle have circulated.
President Trump’s ruthless hurry to nominate a replacement for RBG is an admission of his and his enablers’ fears that he will not be re-elected, and that Republicans will lose their majority in the Senate—so power must rule, not democratic principles.
The nightmare before us is Trump’s comment that he will contest the election and throw the case to the Supreme Court, where his new, loyal nominee will sit.
In a few weeks, the court will have the opportunity to kill the Affordable Care Act, which Congress has been unwilling to do. The threat to a woman’s right to choose is also real.
Let’s hope Republican fears about their future are well-founded and that adherence to democratic principles will end the nation’s four-year nightmare.
David Reuther, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer, is a past chair of the Culpeper Democratic Committee. These are his personal observations.
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