Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to step down during Barack Obama’s presidency. That might have changed everything.


First published in September 2020.


So US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left a last instruction, dictated to her granddaughter. It said:

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

That’s a pious but improbable hope and #RBG, as the judge is called, must have known it as she went into the night.

Like the rest of us #RBG knew that Donald Trump and his Senate change-maker, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would fall over themselves to replace her within hours of the news she’d passed.

Like the rest of us #RBG knew that Mr Trump and Mr McConnell would hasten to ensure a conservative judge is placed on the bench, come hell or high water (or a Democratic president and Senate and House) by January 20, 2021. That would bring the Supreme Court’s conservative tally up to six (currently, it is five), thereby ensuring that liberal opinions remain in a small minority of three, which is entirely possible to ignore. The big and impassable conservative majority on the Court is likely to last nearly the next half-century.

(Click here to read my September 2018 blog ‘A world of non-traditional coups and justice dispensed with one eye on politics’.)

In accordance with US Supreme Court tradition, a black drape is hung over the chair of the late Justice and the front of the Bench where that Justice sat. | Instagram – michaelcastner

And like the rest of us #RBG knew that she was old (87) and afflicted by underlying conditions (bouts of cancer, for instance).

The problem with being shattered over #RBG’s passing is that it doesn’t lessen the sense of frustration that she — a fiercely intelligent woman — should have been so unwilling to let go. I don’t mean of life — she was an indomitable fighter, thank god — but of her job as a Supreme Court Justice.

#RBG refused to step down during Barack Obama’s presidency, even though it was a good time to cede her place to a younger liberal appointee. That would’ve been pragmatic. More to the point it would have done more to maintain a healthy ideological balance on the Court than any plaintive last instructions.🔷



Rashmee Roshan Lall, Journalist. World affairs columnist.


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[This piece was originally published in Medium and re-published in PMP Magazine on 21 September 2020, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Wikimedia/Supreme Court of the United States. - Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2016 portrait. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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