The stakes, already high as could be, just got higher.
But before we dive into politics, a pause, to contemplate the humanity too easily swept aside in the rush to spin and analyze.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American legal hero who struggled upstream against a rushing river of sexism to become a respected attorney, winning key court victories for the rights of women.
She was a wife, mother and grandmother, and her passing Friday evening at age 87 — on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a time of hope and renewal — is deeply felt. She is mourned by her family, friends, and a nation that had come to idolize her — well, half did, anyways — for her courage, incisive legal mind and relentless efforts for the marginalized.
She was also a liberal associate justice on the United States Supreme Court, and her vacancy will be immediately filled by a grinning arch conservative whose name Donald Trump will blindly pluck off the list provided by the Federalist Society. A slim Republican Senate majority will lunge to approve that choice, possibly before the Nov. 3 election.
Those frantically waving Mitch McConnell’s words from 2016, when he blocked Barack Obama appointee Merrick Garland from consideration, are painfully naive, if not fools, appealing to a sense of fairness that has utterly vanished. Amazing at this late date they could even bother scraping together outrage. We’re long past that. The gears of American life are greased by hypocrisy.
Make no mistake. The rule of law is splintering under the Republican attack. Courts have been one of the few guardrails left. Just this week, a court froze Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s efforts to kneecap the Postal Service to undermine the election that Trump is afraid he will lose — or might, if the vote is even allowed to be tallied. The whole electoral mess will no doubt end up in front of the Supreme Court, where soon a third of the seats will be held by justices hand-picked for their fidelity to Donald Trump. Wonder how they’ll rule?
Maybe our error was to trust in heroes. To think that Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG, would live forever — she thought so, apparently, ignoring suggestions that she step down during the Obama administration so he could replace her with someone younger.
Will this unexpected development energize Democrats? They’re already going full bore to avoid four more years under a man whose unfitness is so complete it defies summary — liar, demagogue, friend to dictators, foe of allies, catspaw of the Russians, bigot who has the blood of tens of thousands of Americans on his hands, with more to come, for his craven mishandling of the COVID epidemic. Will the skewing of the court even further right for the next half-century inspire renewed effort? Or resignation?
Or will this unexpected development invigorate the Trump base? Will their fevered love of the man increase? Is that even possible? Probably yes, as they delight to the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade, a code for pushing women back into the kitchen they spent a century escaping.
Bottom line: The bad guys won. Religious zealots, every person of supposed faith who held their nose and blindly supported the most immoral man to ever occupy the Oval Office, has won. The gamble paid off, congratulations. Your notional babies are a step closer to safety, and the rights of women, the true target all along, are again tied to the railroad tracks, awaiting the train.
There is hope. Ginsburg used the equal protection clause in the Constitution to end the treatment of women as second class citizens, less worthy of support or consideration. The good news in the wake of this tragic loss is, while Ginsburg is gone, and some lickspittle ideologue about to take her place, the Constitution is still there; ignored yes, trodden upon, twisted by haters, but so far intact. We are still a nation of laws, no matter how much Trump tries to shrug them away. The struggle for equal rights — not just for women, but for minorities, for LGBTQ people — is a race that has no end. When one leader falls, another steps up. It will be harder now, yes. But it was never easy.