Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died earlier this month; it was a deeply saddening event in an otherwise wonderful time in our country’s political landscape. That is what I would like to say, but RBG’s passing is, in actuality, a deafening blow that serves to further divide our country in the most decisive year since 1861.
RBG was a consistent moral and ethical voice in our country’s judicial system throughout her tenure on the Supreme Court. She upheld the promises of civil liberties, due process, and equal protection that our constitution affords us, as evidenced in her ruling in Planned Parenthood v Casey. Now with President Trump poised to get his third conservative justice confirmed to the court, our country is at risk of having to mourn not only RBG, but every principle she stood for.
There has long been a fear by the liberals in this country that one day a conservative court would come along and overturn the ruling set in pivotal cases like Roe v Wade. In turn there has been a long held frustration by conservatives that wedge issues like Roe are upheld. A detailed report by Politco titled, “The Justice Who Built The Trump Court,” reported on this contentious history.
Back in 1990, George H.W. Bush filled the seat of liberal justice William Brennan with David Souter, who at the time was believed by civil liberty advocates to be the end of rights for women. Then chairwoman of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Molly Yard, called Souter a neanderthal and said, “he will end freedom for women in this country.” Luckily, for our country they were wrong, Souter turned out to stand with the liberals on the Supreme Court and found himself to be good friends with RBG.
However, the conservatives learned to never risk putting a moderate on the bench again – in any federal court, not just the Supreme Court. The Republican party has been moving further and further to the right for decades now, and culminating in Trump we have arrived at fascism. For the record, fascism is bad. Do you know who was antifa? My grandfather when he shipped off to fight in WWII. In this shift to the right, so too have the nominees to federal judgeships shifted.
Trump, for all of his failures—and there are a lot of them— has been prodigiously successful at one thing. Unfortunately for the American people, that one thing is getting judges confirmed to the federal courts. He has confirmed more judges to the lower courts than any other president in our country’s history within their respective first terms. These judges are overwhelmingly conservative, young, white men. One of the greatest impacts a president can have is their mark on the judicial, and Trump may as well have put his name in gaudy gold letters all over it.
RBG was no stranger to the power that the judicial system has to shape the lives of citizens. She also understood that with great power comes great responsibility. Perhaps she said it best in her dissenting opinion in The Republican Party of Minnesota v White. She claimed that judges were fundamentally different from other elected officials. They have a duty to be non-partisan. Our politics have become blindingly partisan, and the reality is that partisanship has likely already infected the Supreme Court. It will only get worse if Trump’s appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed.
RBG’s passing should have been an opportunity to celebrate and remember what an incredible role model she was for our country. While many have had that opportunity, it was curtailed by a sense of dread that comes with worrying about her replacement. I use the term replacement lightly, because like everything Trump does it will be a shoddy facsimile of what it should be.