Supreme Court Justice and Washington fixture Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit the bright lights last Saturday night and saw a play about her late colleague and friend Antonin Scalia. Ginsburg, who has been on the high court since 1993 after being appointed as an associate justice by President Bill Clinton, took some time to tell the audience about her views on DC culture, specifically her optimism that the country would be okay “over the long haul.”
“My hope is in my lifetime we will get back to the way it was,” Ginsburg said about the partisan divide in Washington, D.C.
I’m sure that the sentiment behind Ginsburg’s statement was noble. She was known to have a warm relationship with Scalia, who was her polar opposite when it came to judicial philosophy, and proved though her own example that people can be close friends even when their politics are on different ends of the spectrum. The two were known to have frequent debates over policy, and yet somehow were capable of knocking a drink back together at the end of the day. In that respect, I completely agree with Ginsburg’s lament over the polarized mood in Washington, which has infected the larger culture as well–and I also have a sincere wish that more people could discuss politics without resorting to personal attacks.
But that whole business about the way it was? That may have been good for the DC establishment, but for the rest of the country it wasn’t working so hot. Democrats and Republicans working together may sound nice, but it also brought us a steadily expanding federal government, crushing regulations and a $20 trillion national debt. That’s hardly an argument for bipartisanship.
As to the rancor that has developed over the left-right divide, Ginsburg also doesn’t stop to consider the Court’s own role in creating that anger. Abortion, for example, became the law of the land by judicial fiat back in 1973, but did nothing to settle the issue in peoples’ hearts and minds–and has since become such a cornerstone of Democrat politics that it has pushed the party from “safe, legal and rare” to the extreme of “anytime, anywhere and for any reason.” Democrats who don’t toe that line are quickly shown the door, and worse yet–they insist that taxpayers fund abortions through Planned Parenthood. If you’re missing that good old-fashioned DC comity, I can think of few things that have undermined it more than Roe v. Wade.
Then there’s how the Court has taken it upon itself to become a super legislature, rewriting laws passed by Congress–you know, the people’s representatives–in order to suit its own policy preferences. Remember that time John Roberts (appointed by George W. Bush no less) twisted jurisprudence into a Gordian knot so that he could interpret the Obamacare mandate as a tax, even when the drafters of the law said explicitly that it wasn’t? Or later, when Roberts rewrote the law again to allow federal exchanges to step in for states that refused to establish them, even though Obamacare had no provision for doing so? I don’t know where the Court thought it had the authority to do that, because it sure as hell isn’t in the Constitution. And yet Ginsburg went along with it, taking power away from voters who had no recourse. That sort of thing tends to make people mad, in case she was wondering.
I could go on and on with may other examples of judicial overreach, but you get the idea. If Ginsburg really wants to go back to the good old days of mutual respect, she’ll probably have to reconsider her own judicial activism.