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Bill Lueders is editor of The Progressive. This column was produced for the magazine’s Progressive Media Project and distributed by Tribune News Service.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s untimely death presents a do-or-die moment for American democracy.
If our democracy is going to survive, in any meaningful sense, President Donald Trump and the Republicans must not be allowed to pick her successor to the U.S. Supreme Court — unless they win the next election.
The GOP’s pronouncements in 2016, when the Senate refused to even hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, were crystal clear. Back then, they said the 237 days between Garland’s nomination and the election that brought Trump to power was not long enough.
“Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a Senate colleague in 2016, “we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
Now McConnell and the Republicans are saying that the 46 days between Ginsburg’s death and the Nov. 3 election is not too short a time to move forward with a new pick. They want to be able to fill Ginsburg’s seat with her ideological opposite no matter who wins the presidential contest in November.
In 2016, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.'”
Graham, who went on to become the committee’s chair, now says he will support Trump “in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.”
The hypocrisy is beyond sickening. It is dangerous.
As Obama wrote in his statement on Ginsburg’s passing, “A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle.”
Obama added that the issues that the court will have a role in deciding, including “whether or not our economy is fair, our society is just, women are treated equally, our planet survives and our democracy endures,” were too important for “anything less than an unimpeachable process.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a lifelong champion of the ideal of fairness. As a lawyer, she argued six sex-discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning five of them, years before President Bill Clinton tapped her for the court. As a Supreme Court justice, she wrote powerful dissents against court decisions that denied recourse to victims of gender-based pay disparity and others that opened the door to state voter suppression efforts.
What Trump and the Republicans have in mind is nothing less than the defilement of Ginsburg’s legacy. This is not what she wanted, or why she worked so hard to fight the cancer that ultimately claimed her life. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she said in a statement dictated shortly before her death to her granddaughter.
This is a moment that will test our character as a nation because the right course of action is so clear. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans must not be allowed to apply a wholly contrary standard to what they swore by before.