With the plethora of coverage out there about the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, people have been talking about every angle of this story. There have been stories about the hypocrisy of both sides, allegations of capitalizing on the death of a great woman, and overall bitter and angry partisan fighting.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, here and now, has plunged the country into the depths of a political divide this country has never before seen. Almost immediately the media seized upon the words, allegedly dictated to Ginsburg’s granddaughter, that Ginsburg’s dying wish is that she not be replaced until after the election.
This requires more than just a cursory look at what we are told Ginsburg said, but rather the actual words she used in communicating this desire, as well as her own history in her desire to be replaced on the Court.
First, CNN reported (quoting an NPR correspondent) in the hours after her death, that Ginsburg had actually wished to retire from the court under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg planned to retire under Hillary Clinton if she was elected president, NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg said this evening.
“She loved her job,” said Totenberg. “She had planned, in fact, to retire and be replaced by a nominee of the first woman president because she really thought Hillary Clinton would be elected.”
“Fate dealt her… the cards not that way and she just soldiered on,” Totenberg added.”
In other words, while she could have retired 6 years ago, in the middle of an Obama term and maybe even having named her own replacement through Democrat backchannels, but instead chose to “soldier” on in order to be replaced by what she thought was going to be the first female president, Hillary Clinton. My colleague at RedState, Shipwreckedcrew, has already talked about this in his above-linked piece.
What we need to look at further is the actual words she said to her granddaughter. The statement was allegedly dictated to Ginsburg’s granddaughter, Clara Spera, in the days before her death, and has been widely translated as Ginsburg’s wish to wait until after the November election. From NPR:
“Ginsburg herself was aware about the coming tempest; she dictated this statement to granddaughter Clara Spera in the days before her death: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.
Translation: Ginsburg, a widely venerated judicial lion to political liberals, wants the 2020 election to play itself out before the Senate takes up the matter of her replacement.”
Except that isn’t what she said.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” [Emphasis added]
Ginsburg wasn’t telling us to wait until after the election just to see who won. She was telling us to wait in the hope that Biden/Harris wins in November. She didn’t say, “let’s wait until after November.” She specifically said “new president,” suggesting a hope for her successor to be chosen by a Democrat and not a Republican. She also may have been hoping to survive until a point in which hoped-to-be-VP Harris was elevated in the event of the inability of Joe Biden to continue in the role. Since we know she had been hoping to retire and be replaced by a female president, why would that be a hard conclusion to reach? It really isn’t.
Which leads me to my final point: It isn’t that Ginsburg was telling us to wait. It was that she had (whether she said it explicitly or implicitly) hope that she could survive until the swearing-in of a new President. Shipwreckedcrew stated she gambled with a Hillary Presidency and lost. This is her attempt to double-down in the hopes that her seat would be replaced by a liberal judge. Ginsburg’s literal parting words weren’t of some hope for the future. They weren’t an instruction to a future generation. They were a partisan dream in order to ensure her legacy wouldn’t be one of being replaced by an ultra-conservative on the court. They weren’t made from a place of hope. They were made from a place of regret.
Can one simultaneously feel bad for Ginsburg and want to fill the seat immediately? Sure, you can empathize with her desire, but understand that her request was made from a partisan hope and not from some genuine final directive. One can respect Ginsburg’s service and honor her legacy and also, ignore her deathbed yearnings. It isn’t that her preferences weren’t real. It is that they matter next-to-zero in the process of the replacement of a judge by the President of an opposing party. It can be equal parts sad and true.
Whether or not Ginsburg wanted her seat filled before the election, it is likely going to happen regardless, but not without Democrats throwing everything they have at it.