Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has been making quite a bit of news this SCOTUS off-season, has issued the final battle cry of every divine-right monarch, abusive spouse, and aging quarterback. In an interview with Reuters, the still-sharp Ginsburg said: “So tell me who the president could have nominated this spring that you would rather see on the court than me?”
When reached for comment in the privacy of his own mind, I really hope the President thought: “You must not know ’bout me, You must not know ’bout me. I could have another you in a minute. Matter fact she’ll be here in a minute, baby.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a fantastic justice — is, not “was.” She will likely continue to be a fantastic justice right up until the very moment of her death. We will never see her like again.
But now her watch should end…
Ginsburg is a great jurist, but she’s not a seer. She doesn’t know the future. She thinks that Democrats will retain control of the White House in 2016, but she doesn’t and can’t know that. The political consequences of her decision to hang around and destroy people with her stinging dissents could be significant.
And why is she hanging around? Ginsburg, 81, says she wants to stay around for as long as Louis Brandeis, who retired when he was 82 years old. That’s nice. It’s also a completely arbitrary cut off point. She could say that she would like to stay on until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane and achieve the same level of logic. Ginsburg thinks a little too critically to have the Brandeis line be her real answer.
More likely, Ginsburg wants to stay on for as long as she possibly can because she thinks she’s the best justice that there is. She just told you that she thinks that. Her “who you gonna call” line was couched as a rebuke of the political climate in Washington, but really her conceit is that she is the best possible person for her job available. She thinks that right now, she’s irreplaceable.
Maybe she is. You are unlikely to replace Ginsburg with somebody of equal or greater quality. She will be missed when she is gone.
But Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not indispensable. HER VOTE IS. It is goddamn CRUCIAL to keep her vote in left-of-center hands if the conservative domination of the third branch of government is to end in our times. But the person casting that vote is NOT indispensable.
Ginsburg is sufficient, but she’s not necessary.
And she will be replaced. Sooner or later, the Irreplaceable R.B.G. will be replaced, and life will go on, worse than it was before. But when she asks who would you “rather see on the court than me,” I can answer that: I’d rather see a trained monkey who had a shred of compassion than whatever malevolent Gorgon Rand Paul will nominate.
That monkey might not be sufficient to articulate the progressive ideals of equality and fairness as eloquently and passionately as Ginsburg continues to do. But that monkey could be every bit as necessary as Ginsburg is for preserving the ideals that Ginsburg has fought for her whole life. It’s not the man (or woman, or monkey) that liberals can’t do without, it’s the function.
Ginsburg’s function can be preformed by some other progressive. It doesn’t really matter if the new functionary isn’t as good at it as she is.