Angry Saturday Reads: The Worst (So Far) Has Happened

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Ruth and Marty Ginsburg

The worst (so far) has happened with the heartbreaking loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump and McConnell are determined to replace her with a right wing ideologue before the election. Democrats must fight tooth and nail to keep them from succeeding, because that was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish.

Nina Totenberg at NPR: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died Friday. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family. She was 87.

“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.

Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

She knew what was to come. Ginsburg’s death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases.

[Emphasis added.]

NPR’s Nina Totenberg, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Rebecca Gibian)

This morning, Totenberg discussed her long friendship with Justice Ginsburg: A Five-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call.

In 1971, newly assigned to cover the Supreme Court, I was reading a brief in what would ultimately be the landmark case of Reed v. Reed. It argued that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause applied to women. I didn’t understand some of the brief, so I flipped to the front to see who the author was, and I placed a call to Rutgers law professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

By the time I hung up an hour later, I was so full of information that I was like a goose whose innards were ready for fois-gras. I soon began calling professor Ginsburg regularly, and eventually I met her in person at a conference in New York. We never did agree what the subject of that conference was, but take my word for it, it was boring. So boring that we…well, we went shopping.

We would become professional friends, and later, close friends after she moved to Washington to serve on the federal appeals court here and later, on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some of the stories that follow have little to do with her brilliance, hard work, or devotion to the law, or even her pioneering role as the architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in this country. Rather, they are examples of her extraordinary character, decency, and commitment to friends, colleagues, law clerks — just about everyone whose lives she touched. I was lucky enough to be one of those people.

Read Totenberg’s reminiscences at the NPR link.

Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87.

.Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough, working out regularly with a trainer, who published a book about his famous client’s challenging exercise regime.

As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench during President Barack Obama’s second term, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.”

When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January 2006, Justice Ginsburg was for a time the only woman on the Supreme Court — hardly a testament to the revolution in the legal status of women that she had helped bring about in her career as a litigator and strategist.

Her years as the solitary female justice were “the worst times,” she recalled in a 2014 interview. “The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. That was not a good image for the public to see.” Eventually she was joined by two other women, both named by Mr. Obama: Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.

After the 2010 retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, whom Justice Kagan succeeded, Justice Ginsburg became the senior member and de facto leader of a four-justice liberal bloc, consisting of the three female justices and Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Unless they could attract a fifth vote, which Justice Anthony M. Kennedy provided on increasingly rare occasions before his retirement in 2018, the four were often in dissent on the ideologically polarized court.

Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions, usually speaking for all four, attracted growing attention as the court turned further to the right. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Ginsburg biographer Irin Carmon at New York Magazine: The Glorious RBG: I learned, while writing about her, that her precision disguised her warmth.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg used to instruct her clerks to get it right and keep it tight, so I’ll try to do the same. Only someone so stubborn and single-minded, someone so in love with the work, could have accomplished what she did — as a woman, survived discrimination and loss; as a lawyer, compelled the Constitution to recognize that women were people; as a justice, inspired millions of people in dissent. (I asked her once in an interview what she had changed her mind about and she refused to answer. “I don’t dwell on that kind of question,” she said. “I really concentrate on what’s on my plate at the moment and do the very best I can.”) What made her RBG would also enact the most tragic and sickening ironies of today.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The feminist with a fundamentally optimistic vision, who believed that people, especially men, could be better, might be soon replaced by the rankest misogynist. The litigator and jurist who long subordinated her own immediate desires to the good and legitimacy of institutions, who had preached that slow change would stave off backlash, lived long enough to see Trump and the Federalist Society tear off the Court’s thin veneer of legitimacy anyway. In the 2013 voting-rights dissent that earned her the Notorious RBG nickname, Ginsburg offered an addendum to Martin Luther King Jr.’s suggestion that the arc of history eventually bent toward justice: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” She was thus committed. Still, today she leaves the work not only unfinished but at risk of being undone.

Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Flatbush, and her stoicism was forged in a childhood spent in a house that, she said, bore “the smell of death.” When she was 2, her only sister died of meningitis; one day short of her high-school graduation, her mother died of cervical cancer. Celia Bader, who had once broken her nose reading while walking down the street but whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied.

Click the link to read more about Ginsburg’s life.

What can Democrats do to honor Ginsburg’s dying wish? Some possibilities:

David Corn at Mother Jones: To Honor Ginsburg, Democrats Have One Choice: Go Nuclear.

What is coming, at least as the Republicans see it, is a grand political clash. They have been hellbent on reshaping the entire federal judiciary and especially drool over the prospect of locking the highest court into a right-wing course that will last decades and counter demographic trends that favor Democrats. This is their Holy Grail….So Ginsburg’s departure is a gift for Trump. If there has been any erosion occurring on the edges of his conservative and evangelical base, his effort to shove another anti-choice, pro-corporate conservative on to the highest court could certainly shore up that ground for him….

Ginsburg, a hero of female empowerment and of the Supreme Court, deserves much mourning. But Democrats and progressives can waste no time prepping for the battle royal that lies ahead. After all, it took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mere minutes after the news of RBG’s passing to declare that the GOP-controlled Senate will vote on whoever Donald Trump sends its way to fill the Supreme Court vacancy—a direct eff-you to the Democrats after McConnell in 2016 refused to consider President Barack Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland with the phony-baloney argument that the Senate should not consider new justices during an election year. So yes, Dems will have to organize, but they must do more: They have to get ready to rumble….

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton

It will be bare-knuckles politics from the right. Do or die. By any means necessary. To replace Ginsburg with a young right-wing extremist. And for the Democrats to have a chance of thwarting them, they must realize that this fight is not only a matter of persuasion….

The win-over-reasonable-Republicans-with-reason strategy is weak sauce. That leaves the Democrats with one other choice: total political warfare. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer—with the backing of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi—needs to threaten massive retaliation. Should McConnell try to ram a Trump nominee through, Schumer ought to vow that the Democrats, if they win back the Senate and Biden is elected president, will demolish the filibuster, which will allow the Senate to proceed to make Washington, DC, a state (two more senators, who are likely to be Democrats!) and that they will move to add two or four more seats to the Supreme Court. (There is nothing in the Constitution that limits the court’s size to the current nine justices.) In other words: They will implement a Republican nightmare (which, as it happens, can be justified on arguments of equity and fairness).

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast agrees with Corn: Here Are the Ways to Stop Mitch and Trump From Replacing RBG.

Trump and McConnell will move to put a hard right-winger on the court before the election. Don’t be naive. Don’t think: “They wouldn’t possibly try that.” Of course they would. And if (I hate to be macabre here, but I’m just making a point) Stephen J. Breyer were to perish tomorrow, they’d move to put two right-wingers on the bench before Election Day. It is who they are.

What power can stop them? There are only three that potentially could. Let’s look at them.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

One, the Democrats. Some Democratic senators who might have Mitch’s ear, say Joe Manchin, will go to him. And Mitch will say: Fuck off. However, the Democrats have a card to play here, if Joe Biden will play it. The number nine (of Supreme Court justices) is neither in the Constitution nor law. Biden, and Chuck Schumer, can say: If you fill this seat now, if Biden wins, we’re expanding the Court to 11 or 13, and your majority is dead. And they should be ready to do it.

Two, public opinion. I expect polls will appear in the coming days showing majorities agreeing that no appointment should come until after we have a new president. As I’ve often written, our democracy is corrupted and screwed, but it’s still enough of a democracy that public opinion actually matters. Sometimes. And I think this is probably one of these times.

Three, kind of an ancillary point to public opinion: the fate of Republican senators up for re-election in tough states. Already, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, not up for re-election, has apparently said she will not confirm a justice until the next president is sworn in. That’s one. Democrats would need three more to say that they’ll follow Murkowski’s lead. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Martha McSally seem the obvious choices. There are others. It all depends on the degree of progressive mobilizing in those states, to make those GOP senators know that if they acquiesce to McConnell’s games, they will lose. And of course there’s Mitt Romney, who does not face re-election but who might cast another conscience vote.

So all is not lost yet. But gear up for a fight. And as you do, always leave time in your mind for this remarkable, towering American. Everything we do in this corrupt period should be to honor all that she stood for.

We are already far down the road to autocracy, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday. We have to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life by fighting as hard as we can. As David Corn wrote, we have to bring a bazooka to the GOP’s gunfight.

Anger is an energy.


24 Comments on “Angry Saturday Reads: The Worst (So Far) Has Happened”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I couldn’t sleep last night. I finally dozed off for a couple of hours at around 5AM. What more terrible things can happen in this horrible year 2020? We’ll probably find out soon.

    • dakinikat says:

      I couldn’t stay asleep and kept having really weird dreams again. Every one I know and love is in deep grief. I really am starting to worry about an actual civil war. We can’t let Mitch McConnell stand and I don’t believe any republicans have any sense of morality or honor to fight him.

      The one bright light was hearing Hillary Clinton’s clear and calm voice with reason and suggestions from where do we go to how do we best serve RBG’s decades of service to civil rights? When Rachel said she was on the phone it was like, wow, we’re going to get a real presidential moment and some succor.

      Then Trump came on talking over tiny dancer.

      This country has gone down a very dark alley.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    The Daily Beast: There’ll Be Hell to Pay as Republican Hypocrites Race to Replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    There’s a Jewish tradition that someone who dies on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, must have been a tzaddik, a righteous person. After all, God waited all year to carry out the decree. Perhaps that offers some comfort to those mourning the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Hebrew name, Yita Ruchel bat Tzirel Leah), who finally succumbed to cancer at the age of 87, after convincing many of us that she was immortal.

    But the themes of Rosh Hashanah offer another lesson as well: a warning to those Republican senators pondering whether or not to support Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unbelievable, shameful, cynical, immoral hypocrisy in pushing to replace Justice Ginsburg just hours after her passing and weeks before a presidential election.

    The warning? That, in the words of Lou Reed, you’re going to reap, reap, reap just what you sow.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. Sweet Sue says:

    Wonderful roundup, BB. Thank you. Did it comfort you (I hope) or did you cry all the while? Last night my husband and I were feeling happy; we’d drunk some wine and watched “Hello, Dolly,” on Amazon Prime. Then, we switched to cable News and saw that RBG had died. I screamed, cried and then keened. Honestly, I didn’t react like that when my own beloved mother died. I felt dead inside and, like you, couldn’t sleep. Saw this on Facebook: “May her memory be a revolution.”

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. RonStill4Hills says:

    Democratic Underground is reporting that Trump supporters are disrupting early voting in Fairfax County Virginia.

    We have to admit to ours selves that the war has already begun.

    The other side has already abandoned democracy and the rule of law.

    • NW Luna says:

      Of course the thugs are out trying to stop people from voting. However, it’s heartening that so many voters are out so early. We’ve got to overwhelm them!