Chief Justice John Roberts offered a tribute to the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” he said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
She was a cultural icon, the “Notorious RBG.”
“I do think I was born under a very bright star,” she told National Public Radio. “Because if you think about my life, I get out of law school, I have top grades. No law firm in the city of New York will hire me. I end up teaching; it gave me time to devote to the movement for evening out the rights of women and men.”
Indeed, though she’s known as a leader in the fight for women’s rights, one of her first big victories came in defense of a Colorado man seeking a tax deduction for the care of his 89-year-old mother. The Internal Revenue Service argued that the deduction applied only to women, the caretakers in the household, but Ginsburg argued successfully that men and women should be treated equally.
As a member of the nation’s highest court, Ginsburg frequently found herself in the minority. “Some of my favorite opinions are dissenting opinions,” she told NPR. “I will not live to see what becomes of them, but I remain hopeful.”
Ginsburg did not back away from a fight, but she found ways to disagree without being disagreeable. One of her best friends was conservative Supreme Court icon Antonin Scalia, a man with whom she seldom agreed.
Just days before her death, Ginsburg expressed the hope that her seat would remain unfilled until after the presidential election. Her wish was not without precedent.
When Scalia died four years ago during President Barack Obama’s final year in office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to give Obama’s nominee even a hearing, holding the seat open for the better part of a year. The voters, he insisted, should have their say.
Now, just weeks before another election, McConnell sees things differently. There’s a Republican in the White House, so, of course, the Republican-controlled Senate will confirm his nominee.
Just for the record, most Americans are fed up with a brand of politics where compromise is a bad word and the party with one more vote carries the day.
We long for the days when polar opposites like Ginsburg and Scalia could find common ground, for a time when a Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed, as Ginsburg was, by a vote of 96-3.
Ginsburg’s death reminds us that we had that sort of atmosphere once. We must find a way to have it again.