Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last Friday at age 88, lies in state this week in Washington, D.C. Her death may turn out to be a seminal moment in the nation’s history and not just because of the loss of a renowned jurist and transformational woman. Her death, sadly, means that with the approval of her successor by the Republican-controlled US Senate, the balance of power on the nation’s top court will likely shift much farther to the right— and probably stay that way for many years to come.
The double-dose of despair — losing the iconic Ginsburg only to see her replaced by a conservative picked by this wretched president—is a bitter pill to swallow. Republicans will not honor Ginsburg’s dying wish to wait for the presidential election before choosing her successor. All signs point toward a fast-tracked nomination and confirmation before Nov. 3, with even oft-times “moderate” senators like Utah’s Mitt Romney indicating their willingness to collaborate.
Some Democrats have already suggested that they may seek to expand the number of seats on the court if they regain control of the Senate and win the presidency in November. That might, in fact, come to pass.
This week, however, should be a time to mourn Justice Ginsburg, the woman, the leader, the jurist, the American, the warrior. What a gift she gave to our republic; what a life she lived. And what a burden she carried, right to her final moments. In her last months, she battled pancreatic cancer‚ the latest in a string of ailments that she gamely faced down in her later life. In this instance, she did so knowing that her imminent mortality would trigger further acrimony, divisiveness and, likely, a setback for the causes she held so dear.
It’s true that some of the hard-won gains she helped make possible— particularly for women— might be less secure in her absence. But her real legacy can never— and will never— be undone. She blazed trails that no mortals can unblaze. She inspired generations of young people— of all genders— to mobilize for their full rights as Americans.
As our own District Attorney Rachael Rollins said, poignantly, on the day of Ginsburg’s death: “She has been called a liberal icon, but every American, regardless of their political beliefs, has Justice Ginsburg to thank for pushing our nation closer to fulfilling the promises our Constitution holds…. We have lost a national hero. Now the fight becomes even more urgent for those of us that remain. May her memory be a revolution.”