Justice Ginsburg zealously worked to preserve the protections for women’s reproductive rights enunciated in Roe v. Wade; to ensure that women would not be unjustly denied admission to an all-male academic military institution in United States v. Virginia; and to insist that fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ citizens would be recognized and protected. As she wrote in the Virginia Military Institute case, “women (and by extension other marginalized groups) should not be denied full citizenship status simply because they are women. Rather, they must be accorded equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”
Although recognition and preservation of women’s legal rights is a hallmark of her public career, Justice Ginsburg was also a strong advocate for environmental protections and for ensuring minority voting rights. Her vote was also critical to affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Justice Ginsburg has been described as a warrior, but one who fought with grace and civility. In every respect, she was the inspirational model for a public servant and leader in a functioning democratic society.
With her passing comes a political reality that forces us to deal strongly and intelligently with the horrific challenges we face—starting at this moment with the recent nomination to replace Justice Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court and to do it before the November election. Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, without even knowing who the President intended to nominate, already stated their position. They were going to vote for whomever the President nominated. This, of course, is in direct repudiation of the position they took four years ago when Justice Scalia died in February of 2016, many months before the 2016 election. One Senator even announced he would meet with President Obama's nominee, only to reverse himself a day later. In the end, both Kansas Senators refused to even consider that nomination, wrapping themselves around the McConnell-created “principle” that in an election year the voters should have a voice in such a monumental decision and that whoever wins the election should decide.
Particularly troubling was Senator Moran’s announcement coming less than 24 hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death that the McConnell “principle” should be jettisoned and the Senate should move ahead immediately to vote on Trump's nominee. I will confess to being shocked by such callous disrespect for the memory and legacy of a revered governmental leader as well as the damage such action does to the institutions of our democracy. I cannot imagine this sort of behavior being displayed by past Kansas Republican leaders like President Eisenhower or Senators from Arthur Capper to Nancy Kassebaum.
Moran and Roberts are like many of those on the Titanic denying there could be any problem. In this case, the drowning of our democracy. The Republican Party’s goal is to lock in anti-women and anti-progressive thinking for decades, even though a strong majority of Americans disagree including many Republicans in Kansas.
What should get America's attention is not just the risk of Roe v. Wade being overturned and sent back for each individual state to decide. The ultimate goal of Trump and his acolytes goes much further regarding reproductive issues for women. One example is eliminating federal funding for contraception even though recent research shows that access to birth control decreases the rate of abortion. The conservative philosophy also denies a governmental role in helping individuals, such as providing health care to those not now covered by Medicaid expansion or the existence of the Affordable Care Act as a whole—or apparently in even preserving Social Security and Medicare for older citizens and people with disabilities.
With a right-wing Supreme Court, another set of issues that Ginsburg championed could be lost. Specifically, all the advancements for women that Ginsburg fought for both as a lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court and as a Justice. The Founders guaranteed equal protection under the law for all citizens. But it wasn't until Ginsburg, who fought successfully as a lawyer, that women for the first time were treated equally as men under the law. Her work led to women being rightfully included in the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The question going forward is: would a Trump right wing Supreme Court concur with any of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successes?
We need to also remember election year 2000: The Supreme Court decided that Bush won when they could have instead sent the case back to Florida to have all the votes counted. If Trump is successful on this Court appointment, he will have the votes from the Supreme Court to declare himself the election victor if he continues to insist that there is so-called massive fraud in the election process. You might think that is a crazy possibility but it is absolutely not. Trump is now suggesting that he will not necessarily preside over an orderly and peaceful transition of power should election results not comport with his desires. He has specifically said he views it important that a new justice to be confirmed in order to participate in the presidential election decision. In the past, such comments emanating from a U.S. President would be unthinkable.
This is not a football game where trick plays happen and your only thought is why didn’t my team anticipate and avoid the damage? The damage here is not just real but there will be no next game next week to learn and turn things around. Let’s get serious and do everything possible for whatever time we have to stop this attack on our democracy.