R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg…Now What?

It had already felt like this country was fraying like a worn and long unwashed jacket. And now this.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead.

The very words rocked me back on my heels last night as I climbed the few stairs to the utility room after depositing some recyclables in the blue bin and my phone lit up and those words presented themselves from a “Washington Post” alert and my mind groped for a few seconds to make sure I was reading and comprehending correctly and to my horror I realized that I was and I knew, with sudden and absolute certitude, that I would always remember this moment, just as I do the President Kennedy and Bobby and MLK and my parents’ and my brother’s moments of passing.

I also knew, with equal certitude and immediacy, that as bad as things appear to be now, they are about to get very, very much worse.

That’s because I had zero doubt that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would waste zero time in proclaiming the wholesale reversal of his 2016 action denying President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland even a hearing. His stated rationale was that it was an election year and “the American people” should have a say in who the next justice would be.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Washington D.C. this month and next, peacefully but persistently demanding that Republicans stay true to their word.

Garland was nominated on March 16, eight months before the election, 10 before the next presidential inauguration. By the time his nomination lapsed and Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed in his stead in early April 2017, the court had been without a ninth justice for just under 13 months.

Today, we are 45 days short of a momentous election, and McConnell last night vowed, within hours of Justice Ginsburg’s passing, that a new nominee “will receive a floor vote” in the Senate.

Making little effort to justify his transparently unjustifiable position, he trotted out some poppycock about there being a difference from 2016, because back then the Democrats controlled the White House and Republicans the Senate, and now, since Republicans control both, we should not concern ourselves with letting the American people “have a say.”

You can be excused for not following the logic of that rationale, although outright deceit and treachery do have a certain logic to them.



So: where to from here?

The country is in upheaval from the most divisive and incompetent president in history, an expert sower of chaos whose typically chaotic response to the Covid-19 pandemic has further ratcheted up the fear and misinformation and confusion that have been the hallmarks of his administration.

And that man will soon be nominating his third justice, most certainly an uber-conservative who will tip the balance of the court so far to the right on issues of huge import that it will no longer represent even close to a majority view of the United States population.

If he and McConnell succeed in their devious scheme, the court will instead, like the Senate itself, like all too many Republican-gerrymandered statehouses, speak for a minority view reflecting the quirks of our democratic republic with its two senators from each state regardless of size, and an electoral college system that has seen two Republican presidents elected in the last 20 years, despite losing the popular vote.

Last night, hundreds of people gathered spontaneously on the steps of the Supreme Court building, holding candles in honor of Ginsburg and signs reflecting the “fervent wish” she expressed in her final days for her replacement to be named by the winner of November’s presidential election. We might consider that gathering the beginning of what is certain to become a massive and loud protest movement decrying what will surely be Trump and McConnell’s plans to move with great speed in rushing a nomination through.

Can anything stop it?

Four Republican senators could, by standing with Democrats to respect the “precedent” McConnell set in 2016. Just in recent weeks, Senators Collins of Maine, Murkowski of Alaska and Grassley of Iowa said they would do exactly that, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the same two years ago.

Will they respect those positions now? I would not bet anything of value on that proposition.


Imagine hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Washington D.C. this month and next, peacefully but persistently demanding that Republicans stay true to their word.

Or imagine those crowds in front of McConnell’s home offices in Kentucky, demanding that a tiny shred of decency and integrity, at long last, emerge from him.

Could such an upwelling of righteous indignation perhaps sway the needed quartet of Republican senators to finally vote their conscience over their marriage of electoral convenience to a mad king?

(Mitt Romney, a nation may yet turn its desperate eyes to you…)

Or would such protests, emotional as they would be, inevitably turn violent on the fringes, then quickly spin out of control, engendering an even more violent response from Trump in the hope that the tumult would increase his electoral chances?

Violence upon violence, with untold destruction of people and what remains of the nation’s spirit, would be the great fear. But it is a fear that should not be borne primarily by Democrats, because the whole fractious tableaux could easily be avoided if McConnell and his cohorts simply stayed true to their word in the most divisive, fear-inducing period of recent American history.

The situation is clearly in Republicans’ hands. What will they do with it?

If they pursue the path of deceit, any blood that is shed and additional extreme ill will expressed by an exhausted and beaten down Democratic electorate will be on Republicans. And though they may reap the spoils of their treachery by gaining another Supreme Court seat for their extremist views, they will have further eroded the soul of this nation and wholly earned the long-term enmity of their Democratic counterparts.

And once we have arrived at that point, all bets and inclinations toward anything but bare knuckle power grabs will be off the table. Meaning that if the Democrats are fortunate enough to win both the presidency and the Senate in November, they should immediately begin an effort to add at least two more seats to the Supreme Court so their president can enact the will of the people that McConnell, Trump and their obedient cult followers denied.


Come senators, please heed the call…updated.


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Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: larry@rosefoto.com

Ginsburg seed art from Minnesota State Fair, photo by Mpls55408  https://www.flickr.com/photos/7388863@N03/

Leaf after rain by Michael E., Oberbayern, Germany  https://www.flickr.com/photos/24842334@N07/

13 comments to R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg…Now What?

  • Mary  says:

    If the collective American psyche feels anything like my own this morning, it’s not a cheerful and energetic place. One. More. Blow.

    I am trying to honor RBG’s legacy and example this morning, being honest about this fresh sorrow and trying to find a path forward in the midst of unexaggerated exhaustion. Honoring that legacy surely entails finding a place for my voice to join others in insisting that the nomination process and her replacement not be crammed down our throats (adding insult to injury is bad enough; the potential for lasting damage is even worse to contemplate). I will be searching for the most powerful use of my voice in this critical and pivotal time and, even before the sorrow lifts, I urge us all to do the same.

  • Claire  says:

    If anything, we should all realize how the downtrodden feel. We must actively work for a super majority in the Senate to even have a prayer of doing what you suggest with the Supreme Court. I will start today by putting my money toward Democratic Senate Candidates all over the country. There are a number of close races. As we strive to overcome a political PTSD, we must do what we can to turn this tide. I hope that the young are as motivated as they seem to be and will vote. We need them to turn this country back around. I had my night of devastated disbelief. Today, I am honoring this woman who gave so much for her country and kept fighting when she was weak and frail. Today, we stop licking our wounds and pick up the flag she dropped. We can do this. The alternative is unthinkable.

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    This is a wonderful story of two dear friends, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Both grew up in New York City. Both studied law at Harvard. Before becoming Supreme Court justices, both were professors at prestigious law schools. For several years, they even served together on United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Both enjoyed loving 56-year marriages. Despite all these commonalities, they interpreted the Constitution from radically different positions. However, far more importantly, they never allowed it to interfere in their beloved friendship.
    When President Bill Clinton struggled over his first nomination to the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia was asked, “If you were stranded on a desert island with your new court colleague, who would you prefer: Larry Tribe or Mario Cuomo?” Justice Scalia unhesitatingly answered, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg.’”
    Following the Supreme Court’s decision to rule in favor of George W. Bush against respondent Al Gore, a decision that determined the Presidency, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one of the three dissenting justices, remained in her office long after the other justices had gone home. Ginsburg recalled that around 9 p.m., her phone rang; it was Antonin Scalia. Ginsburg clearly remembered the conversation. “He didn’t say, ‘Get over it’. Instead he fondly advised, ‘Ruth, why are you still at the court? Go home and take a hot bath’.” She wisely took his suggestion.
    Ginsburg and Scalia, whom she adoringly called Nino, often accompanied each other to the Kennedy Center to share a common love–the opera. In Richard Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos”, they appeared as extras. In the opera “Scalia/Ginsburg”, composer Derrick Wang wove threads of Verdi and Puccini arias, the National Anthem, Noels, jazz, and gospel into a comical quilt of sparring constitutional ideologies. Shortly after Scalia’s death, Ginsburg revealed that her ever-bombastic friend considered his Opera Ball evening playing the piano for two tenors as the highlight of his years in Washington.
    Maureen and Antonin Scalia and Ruth and Marty Ginsburg got together every New Eve in a “Scalia kills it and Marty cooks it” celebration.
    They often vacationed together. Scalia’s favorite souvenir shopping pal was Ginsburg. In India one year, a photograph of them sitting atop a “magnificent, very elegant” elephant went viral. A few years later, during a Ginsburg-Scalia evening symposium at George Washington University, she recounted the event to the delight of Scalia. Her feminist friends asked, “Ruth, why are you sitting in the back?” She answered it was simply a matter of proper weight distribution. Scalia couldn’t stop laughing.
    Scalia once dryly remarked, “Call us the odd couple. She likes opera, and she’s a very nice person. What’s not to like? Except her views on law.”
    In 2010, when Chief Justice Roberts announced from the bench that Marty Ginsburg had just died, Scalia was seen wiping tears from his eyes. In 2016, Antonin Scalia died, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered an emotional eulogy. She called him, “a magnificent performer. How blessed I was to have a working colleague and dear friend of such captivating brilliance, high spirits, and quick wit…We were different, yes, in our interpretation of written texts, yet one in our reverence for the Court and its place in the U.S. system of governance.”
    Now, isn’t that a righteous verdict?

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    Mary and Claire, your words serve as an inspirational call to arms—yep, there is always something to be done. Too many things, actually, for one person managing one life, so the time to get started on at least some of it is today, wherever we are. (And I will still think very hard about joining protests in D.C. and Kentucky, for starters…)

    Robert, the kind of cross-aisle collegiality you describe wasn’t all that rare back in the day, seemed more rare when Ruth and Nino were on the bench together, and seems almost impossibly quaint today. More’s the pity, but it’s hard to imagine the likes of McConnell and Trump, the quintessential transactional men, even having friendships like that with anyone, which is a greater pity still.

  • Kevin Feldman  says:

    To echo Andrew – thanks to Mary and Claire for reminding us to take action and to Robert for the delightfully detailed short history of RBG and Scalia- critical reminder of our shared humanity even when political views are so radically different. RBG’s life story is an inspiration to all – her incredible work ethic, sense of humor, love of the arts, devotion to family and never waining commitment to equal opportunity for women will continue to reverberate…what an momentous life!

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Yes, Kevin, we were discussing this very matter last nite, of her truly noteworthy life being swallowed up by the political shenanigans attending her death. A real shame in that, but thankfully tributes are also pouring in by the bushel, which I figured would happen in any case, making me feel a little more free (and less guilty) to focus on the ferocious, and ultimately unavoidable political implications of her death. A remarkable circumstance in concluding quite the remarkable life!

  • Moon  says:

    Uplifting commentary here, and I’m thankful that my cohorts are so, well, human. I am blinded by hatred and scorn for McConnell, who did not utter a word of sorrow or condolence, but instead launched a predictable salvo of, we’ll vote as quickly as we can. I’m 69 years old, but can only come up with one schoolyard action I’d like to perform, and punch the living shit out of this guy.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Pretty hard not to be overwhelmed by the breathtaking, take-no-prisoners amorality of McConnell and his cohort in the Oval Office, Moon, so you—along with about a hundred million other Americans—get a lot of leeway from here in dealing with the emotions they churn up. Plus, you score extra points for making me laugh…

  • Jamie  says:

    Andrew, you articulated my sentiments and thoughts far more eloquently than I can express them even to my own self.

    Sadness and terror.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Indeed, Jamie, we seem to be lurching rom one horror to the next, with the only sure thing being that we never know what’s coming around the bend. Big fun, eh? (Not…) :-(

      I suppose the one consolation may be that such upheaval can often be the prelude to huge breakthroughs that fundamentally change things for the better. (Of course, sometimes breakthroughs go the other way, history being as fickle as it is…) I think I’ll hang my hat on the hope, though, complemented by the actions that call to me. Onwards!

  • Gerry Ausiello  says:

    I believe Romney is saying that the Merrick Garland travesty should not be repeated, so he supports a nominee being submitted, and a vote taken. He did not say he would vote to confirm that nominee.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Hey Gerry, I couldn’t find any reference to Romney not wanting to repeat the Garland travesty so please do lay that into a response here if you can find it. All I’ve seen is his Twitter statement and then a followup elsewhere. On Twitter he wrote:

      “My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent. The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own.
      The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”

      The followup to that was:

      “Democrats have gotten very used to the idea of having a Supreme Court with a liberal bent over the last few decades. But that’s not written in the stars. It’s appropriate for a center-right nation to have a Court which reflects a center-right point of view—a Court that insists on following the law and following the Constitution.”

      I could be wrong, but I read all of that to mean he is most certainly going to vote to bring the nomination to a vote and then to vote to approve, unless Trump nominates Attila the Hun, or someone even more to the right of him, like Ted Cruz…

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