One of the most interesting developments in the recent media spin cycle is the renewed fascination—on both the left and the right—with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg has been in the national spotlight since her appointment in 1993; her tenure on the Court has afforded her the opportunity to become one of the most influential figureheads in the fight for gender equality and expanded “reproductive rights.” Influential, and polarizing. We can’t stop talking about her, whether it be about her opinions, her tendency to snooze during the State of the Union, or—most importantly, in some circles—her eventual retirement.
In a recent interview with MSNBC, Irin Camron wasted no time in coaxing Ginsburg into answering the one question liberals can’t help but flogging every time they get near a member of the Court—how long does Ginsburg plan on sticking around?
They’re worried, of course, because timing is key when it comes to Supreme Court appointments. Right now the left’s worst nightmare is that the next retirement will coincide with a Republican presidency. Ginsburg’s history of health problems—colorectal cancer in 1999, and a tumor in her pancreas in 2009—has become a real hobgoblin for SCOTUS watchers, who understand the difference one seat can make when major issues such as gay marriage, abortion, or election law are on the line.
Talking heads have picked up on the tension. Check out Maddow’s heightened level of concern (via MRC):
Of course, the left wants to keep Ginsburg around for as long as possible, without risking a Republican appointment in the event 2016 doesn’t go well for Democrats. She’s a gender fighter, she’s vehemently pro-choice, and she’s nearly as outspoken as her fellow Justice and unlikely friend Antonin Scalia. In the MSNBC interview, she wastes no time getting down to the business of promoting progressive policies:
CARMON: When you were fighting for women’s rights in the ‘70s, what did you think 2015 would look like? What’s the unfinished business that we have, when it comes to gender equality?
GINSBURG: Our goal in the ‘70s was to end the closed door era. There were so many things that were off limits to women, policing, firefighting, mining, piloting planes. All those barriers are gone. And the stereotypical view of people of a world divided between home and child caring women and men as breadwinners, men representing the family outside the home, those stereotypes are gone. So we speak of parent — rather than mother and wage earner rather than male breadwinner. That job was an important first step. What’s left, what’s still with us and harder to deal with is what I call unconscious bias.
CARMON: You’ve been a champion of reproductive freedom. How does it feel when you look across the country and you see states passing restrictions that make it inaccessible if not technically illegal?
GINSBURG: Inaccessible to poor women. It’s not true that it’s inaccessible to women of means. And that’s — that’s the crying shame. We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country. There are states — take the worst case. Suppose Roe v. Wade is overruled. There will still be a number of states that will not go back to old ways. Well, now there’s lots of legislative activity, right? And it’s mostly in the direction of shutting down clinics, creating new barriers–
GINSBURG: Yes. But —
CARMON: — in front of women.
GINSBURG: Who does that — who does that hurt? It hurts women who lack the means to go someplace else. The situation with abortion right now — all the restrictions, they operate against the woman who doesn’t have freedom to move, to go where she is able to get safely what she wants.
She goes on to predict that the Court won’t overturn Roe v. Wade (I don’t think they will, either—they worked too hard in Casey to not do just that), but puts the emphasis on dedication to precedent rather than on agenda-flogging. She also took a shot at the legislative branch, saying that “at the moment, our Congress is not functioning very well.” (Are you going to argue with her? I’m not.)
Ginsburg is a liberal, and unabashedly so—but I want her to stick around for as long as possible. She said that Congress isn’t functioning very well, and that’s true; but right now, neither is the country as a whole. A shakeup in the Court right now wouldn’t just mean a more liberal (and embarrassingly less capable, if Obama’s track record holds up) Justice—it would guarantee a fundamental and possibly permanent transformation in the way the American public views the role and purpose of the Court.
We’re rapidly transforming into an activist nation. Everything is an Issue©, right down to the skin color of whatever pop star is topping the charts. Another Obama appointment will only help solidify this growing idea that the Court exists at the mercy of public opinion.
Here’s hoping that we see at least two or three more years of the Notorious RBG and her infuriatingly progressive opinions.DONATE
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