The Rules of Partisan Politics

Regarding the current Supreme Court mess…

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — like Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights giant, who demanded that the United States live up to its ideals — has created the fourth time in the last six decades that liberals may turn over a seat to conservatives. Aware of this possibility, some legal scholars and writers pleaded with Ginsburg to retire while Barack Obama was president and Democrats still controlled the Senate, but she wanted to remain on the court.

Notorious RBG, the immortal meme: Woman gets giant tattoo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's face |

The prior paragraph and the following one come from the New York Times  (David Leonhardt, 9/21/20).  Like many people on the left side of the political divide, I love and venerate Justice Ginsburg’s memory. But like so many liberal voters and political-types, we have been playing by different rules than the Republicans. We have assumed for too long that the Supreme Court was meant to be above partisan politics, while the Republicans act like Court appointments are the ultimate partisan weapon. Justice Ginsburg couldn’t, of course, time her own death, though she hoped to outlast Trump’s reign. But read on to see how other left-leaning justices miscalculated their retirements.

In 1968, the last year of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, he appointed a personal friend to replace the departing chief justice — and when the nomination floundered on ethical grounds, the seat remained available for the next president, Richard Nixon, to fill. Later, two other liberal justices — Hugo Black, in 1971, and Thurgood Marshall, in 1991 — retired under Republican presidents and were each replaced by a conservative justice. Marshall’s replacement, Clarence Thomas, is still on the court today.

Further, in 2016 we had the refusal of the Senate Republicans to consider replacing the deceased Antonin Scalia during President Obama’s last term in the same year as an election.  The voting was nine months away!  Yet now, only six weeks from the vote, the Republicans are pushing to allow Mr. Trump to make an appointment.

While it is a truism that “all’s fair in love and war”, fairness in politics is not even a consideration for Republicans. When will the Democratic hierarchy learn this simple but crucial lesson?

2 thoughts on “The Rules of Partisan Politics

  1. Excellent point, Steve. I’m trying to keep my spirits buoyed up by hoping for a landslide Biden win and a flip of the senate. In such case we should be pushing to increase the number of Supremes.

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