RIP RBG, Advantage GOP

W.J. Astore

This summer I read a really good book: “Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law,” by Jeffrey Rosen. I was impressed by Ginsburg’s clarity, coherence, and especially by her compassion. The Supreme Court and the country have lost a giant.

Now, of course, Mitch McConnell has already vowed a Senate hearing for her replacement prior to the election on November 3rd. His rank hypocrisy and slimy opportunism are eminently predictable. But I really don’t blame Mitch. He’s just doing what swamp creatures do.

No — I blame the Democrats. When Mitch McConnell blocked President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee in 2016, Obama could have done something. There were options. But the Democrats assumed Hillary Clinton would win and she’d get to nominate her first Supreme Court justice, so they caved to Mitch’s obstructionism. That craven strategy got us Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch. (And, later, the bonus of Brett Kavanaugh.)

Meanwhile, at the lower court levels, Chuck Schumer in the Senate has served as a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell’s remake of the courts with ultra-conservative judges. Schumer, it must be said, is basically doing the bidding of his masters in the donor class, who are more than happy to see a large number of pro-business, anti-regulatory, judges being appointed to various federal courts.

With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Republicans will doubtless nominate someone who’s the polar opposite of RBG. Someone without much compassion, a partisan hack no doubt, someone dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade, even though the nominee will use the usual weasel words about respecting judicial precedent.

RBG’s death is a major blow, not only because we lost a great justice and an admirable person, but because it will unleash the Republicans to do their worst even as the Democrats will once again reveal their pusillanimity in the face of determined opposition.

If only more Democrats had the spine of RBG. Rest in peace, Ruth. You did all that you could to make this country a better place.

26 thoughts on “RIP RBG, Advantage GOP

  1. Now, Mr. Astore, neither of us (to my knowledge!) is a Constitutional Law Professor, like Mr. Obama was. Pray explain to us what options Obama had to get around the GOP obstruction of nomination process? Given that the GOP had enuf Senators to win any procedural vote. The only “option” I can envision would have been for Obama to nominate a very, very conservative judge, someone the GOP could sign off on. Which would have been “slightly” self-defeating, yes?

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    1. Something like this, Greg. Obama could have argued that, by refusing to give their “advice and consent,” the Senate had abnegated their responsibility and therefore their say in the process. He could then simply have appointed Merrick Garland (perhaps as an interim justice). This may not have been “legal” (hell, I don’t know), but it would have been an end around Mitch’s obstruction.

      He chose not to do it because he thought it was a moot point. Hillary would win. And once again Obama was wrong and the Republicans profited.

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      1. Bill, I’m pretty darned sure Obama (or any other POTUS operating in reality, which excludes current incumbent of course) had no such authority. GOP would have moved for impeachment of Obama immediately. Under extremely unusual conditions–some natural or man-made disaster making it impossible for Congress to meet, perhaps–I think someone could have been interim-appointed to the big bench, but at first opportunity GOP in the Senate would have undone that. In the wake of the last GOP obstruction, the court operated with 8 members. So, operating understaffed would not be a precedent-setter. I’m sure Schumer et al. will point this out, but to no avail. Your headline, at least, was dead accurate. The GOP certainly continues to have upper hand in the Senate.

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        1. Greg: Imagine if Trump was obstructed by a Democratic Senate that refused their “advice and consent.” He’d just appoint his man and dare the “demoncrats” to impeach him.

          That’s why I have some respect for Trump and the Republicans — they’re not afraid to kick ass. The Democrats are always waiting for permission from their donors …

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          1. However, despite the absolute power Trump thinks he possesses, such a scheme would be “dead on arrival.”…Then again, such a “Constitutional crisis” would likely end up in front of, yes, SCOTUS! But the scenario won’t materialize. I can’t see Dems regaining majority in Senate without Biden also being elected. The issue of Dems expanding number of justices on SCOTUS is now the main headline on CNN online. Things are developing rapidly!

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          2. Greg: Saw this today: Trump dismisses Susan Collins saying she thinks the next president should pick RBG’s replacement: “We won and we have an obligation as the winners to pick who we want … we’re here right. Right now, we’re here.”

            Imagine if Obama had said this in 2016. I won, I’m the president, I will choose, and if the Senate refuses to do its job, I will appoint. Impeach me.

            But, no, he just let Mitch steal the seat away from him, with barely a whimper of complaint.

            And here we are …

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          3. The scenario of GOP Senators in revolt–hell, they’re ALL revolting to me!–I suspect will decide whether Trump gets his way on the nomination/confirmation. Susan Collins is, if anything, a waffler supreme (no pun). Her (current) reluctance to bow to Trump on this plus nearly three bucks will get you a ride on a NYC subway or bus, if you dare risk the virus!

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      2. Okay, this is relevant: A NY Times op-ed columnist proposes that, if Dems can gain control of Senate, they should expand the number of seats on SCOTUS to offset the gains of the extreme-right ideologues gaining seats there. And this jogs my memory: I believe the Constitution does not preclude having more than nine members on that court! (They already have a slate of “back-up” members, I believe, who could step in if some bizarre situation arises, like half the court being blown up in a terrorist attack.)

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  2. With due condolences to the family and friends of Justice Ginsberg, but
    another worthy — and very much needed today — American has passed away: Stephen Cohen Has Died. Remember His Urgent Warnings Against The New Cold War., by Caitlin Johnstone, caitlinjohnstone.com (September 19, 2020)

    On a more positive note, my younger son’s wife just gave birth to a healthy baby girl in less than an hour. So, congratulations to grandpa, me. Life ends and Life begins.

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  3. Of Ice and Men
    (a slight rearrangement of John Milton’s 7-line stanzas in his “Early Poems”)

    John Donne, or someone like him, must have written
    Of Death and Life, conjoined and relative;
    Depending on which bites and which was bitten;
    Which blame and which the other should forgive;
    Each claims the other smites while it was smitten.
    As long as Life can die then Death will live.
    Such thoughts drain minds, like water through a sieve.

    Or, Milton, as he tried an early hand
    At telling Time to take itself and go
    As if Time needed such a reprimand
    From one so young, embedded in Time’s flow
    Who thought himself entitled to command
    A Universe that he could never know.
    What too much Bible reading goes to show.

    For pure imagination, though unbridled,
    Such flights of fantasy, have their appeal
    As entertainment for the leisure-idled
    Whose unemployment they wish to conceal.
    Up to the edge of sanity they sidled,
    The two Johns choosing “God” their hurts to heal.
    Creative theft of Life from Time – a steal.

    In course of Time, Life bred a thirst for science:
    A gnawing urge not just to understand,
    But to predict. On mind, constrained, reliance:
    Imagination tested on demand.
    In face of the unknown, a fierce defiance
    To falsify or validate the grand
    Suggestions, or dismiss them out of hand.

    The game’s not up, here in the early innings.
    Or so we hope, with Life not nearly done.
    No tally yet of losses and of winnings.
    Too soon the notion of the final gun.
    No talk of endings, rather, bare beginnings:
    Five billion years remain to fuel our sun.
    Death, Life, and Time have still their race to run.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2019

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  4. The Ruling Crassness

    The institutions of society
    Grown illegitimate through rank misuse
    Still cling to their self-serving piety

    A pompous supposition: vain, abstruse,
    That in themselves they find reflected “good.”
    Their long years of assiduous abuse

    Of Law and Language leave misunderstood —
    By cunning calculation and design –
    The nature of their nightmare neighborhood

    Where “good things for the many” they malign,
    And “all things for the few” they give a pass.
    These “Citizens United” fall in line

    To buy the Elephant and rent the Ass:
    “Democracy,” made truly crude and crass.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2020

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  5. You beat me to it with the title for this post. : )

    Justice Ginsberg’s loss is incalculable. I believe there’s a case to be made that her passing may have a greater long-term effect on the country than four more years of the Orange Imbecile.

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    1. Well, but they’re intimately intertwined! Perhaps you’re arguing Biden couldn’t find a nominee as strong on women’s rights issues. I find it extremely unlikely the Dems would regain control of Senate without a Biden victory. So a Biden loss would give Trump or his successor four more years to put still more hideous individuals on SCOTUS. (I seem to recall Justice Breyer publicly ruminating on retirement.) Thus, a Trump victory would be THE ultimate tragedy.

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      1. What I was getting at is that a new 40-ish SC justice could affect policy for 40 or more years. RBG sat on the court for 27 years. Unless the Orange One would get a lot smarter in a second term, whatever he does could be undone in a couple decades, given sufficient political will on the Dems’/Progressives’ part, if they’d collectively grow a set.

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        1. “Heaven help us!” if it’s gonna take two decades to undo Trump’s shenanigans!! The planet will be an unmitigated disaster, environmentally, in 20 years, regardless of who’s running this or any other country!

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  6. Perhaps Trump has found his nominee: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/us/politics/supreme-court-barrett.html

    She seems to be against abortion and Obamacare, a woman who puts her conservative Catholic views first. And those just happen to align with much of the evangelical agenda.

    An ideal judge, to my mind, needs compassion and humility. Certainly much more so than religious certitude or book smarts. RBG had compassion and humility — and smarts and determination. And that’s why she’s a legend.

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    1. I’ve seen nothing in MSM indicating Sen. Romney is willing to buck The Big Man on this nomination process. They’ve sparred verbally, now push is coming to shove real soon. Maybe Mitt’s keeping his cards close to his vest until last second?

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  7. The Democrats have this, “Let’s reach across the Aisle” disease. You would think after the Clinton Impeachment attempt, the Democrats would have learned every time they try to Reach across the Aisle, they get their hand hacked off. Clinton did more to destroy the old Democratic Party of Main Street than the Republicans could have hoped for, with all his de-regulation legislation and allying the Democratic Party with Wall Street.

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    1. You’re right, ML. But “reach across the aisle” is driven, I think, by the donor class. Democrats do the bidding of their masters.

      In other words, I don’t think the Democrats are dumb. I think they’re compromised. Because they love money and power and want to maintain their hold on the same. To adopt truly progressive positions would be to risk losing money and power and influence — and they know this. Because the first lesson they learned in politics is to follow (as in obey as well) the money. And the donors don’t want to pay higher taxes; they don’t want stricter regulations; they don’t want any change that presents a peril to their portfolios; in short, just like Republicans.

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    2. Yes, the Dems seem to be suffering the delusion that “being civil” can actually win votes in today’s political environment! SCOTUS will very soon consist of six rightwingers against 3 centrists (I decline to call them “liberals”). I fully support the idea of the Dems expanding number of seats on the court–no Constitutional prohibition of that whatsoever–but this will require not just Biden winning but a dependable majority in US Senate. And thus, though it sounds like just more election hype, this really IS The Most Important Election in many decades.

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