Opinion: RBG’s death leaves void

Art by Sofia Miller

On Sept. 18 the formidable dissents, the witty and fiery Ginsburns, and the hopeful semblance of justice within America faded as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed from this world. 

Despite being small in stature standing at 5’1”, Ginsburg was a trailblazing giant in the fight to right the wrongs of the gender inequality that plagued the 20th century. She crippled outdated institutions and shattered the rigid gender norms that confined both men and women. 

Ginsburg was at the height of her career during the second wave of the Women’s Liberation movement as an attorney who won five of six cases she presented before the United States Supreme Court, arguing against discrimination on the basis of sex. Her representation of men and women in court was a genius strategy used to emphasize to the all-male judges of the Supreme Court that the prominent effects of gender discrimination disadvantaged all genders. 

Her work would soon lead her to the high court once again as she was first nominated to the United States Supreme Court by former President Bill Clinton. When she was confirmed by the Senate in a 96-3 vote, she donned her black robe for the first time on Aug. 5, 1993.

As one of the first two female justices to sit on the Supreme Court, the collars that famously accompanied her robes were not simply an accessory, but a means of feminine distinction in the sea of black robes designed for men that engulfed her. One in particular—her dissenting collar—was a symbol of defiance, and she radiated power as she wore it while in dissent of opinions within the Supreme Court, or at times as a silent protest to the failings of America. 

Her time on the bench created a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, which led to increased rights for women, the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities, and immigrants. 

Her physical strength exhibited by her 20 daily pushups at the age of 80 was matched by her inner fortitude that withstood the misogyny and sexism of her time, as well as the hardships of her personal life as she battled with cancer five times.

Even in her final moments, Ginsburg held America’s democracy on her frail shoulders with such strength—her death had ultimately sent shockwaves across politics in America, leaving many uncertainties ahead. While many mourned the loss of Justice Ginsburg, America was inundated with questions for the future, more specifically—who would fill Ginsburg’s vacancy on the bench. 

Republican Senate majority leader Mitchell McConnell vowed to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat within the election year, which was contradictory to his strong opposition in 2016 when former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to succeed Antonin Scalia as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. 

The hypocrisy of this is undeniable, but expected, as McConnell has prided himself in the past for seizing all opportunities to fill many lower courts with conservative judges. 

Lindsey Graham echoed similar statements as McConnell in 2016 with a bolder claim preceding it. 

“I want you to use my words against me: If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey O. Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’” Graham had said. “And you could use my words against me, and you’d be absolutely right.”

Americans tried in vain to hold these Republicans to their word. One of them being former vice president Joe Biden who argued against Republicans’ justifications for ignoring their set precedent.

“There is no doubt—let me be clear: The voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden said. “This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That’s the position the United States Senate must take today.”

Of the two Republican senators who oppose McConnell on this rushed confirmation process, Susan Collins agreed with Biden’s position and said the next president should decide who fills the seat. 

“Because this vote is occurring prior to the election, I will vote against the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Collins said. “To be clear, my vote does not reflect any conclusion that I have reached about Judge Barrett’s qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court. It is not a comment on her; it is a comment on the process, rushing through.”

Other members of the Republican party have insisted because they hold the majority in the Senate and that the American citizens chose a Republican president, this election year is different. 

“I believe that the president should nominate a successor to the court, and I think it is critical that the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz said. “This nomination is why Donald Trump was elected. This confirmation is why the voters voted for a Republican majority in the Senate.”

According to a Sept. 20 Reuters poll, 62% of Americans believed the next elected president should fill Justice Ginsburg’s vacancy. In the face of Republicans’ desires to overturn paramount abortion, healthcare, and gun rights decisions, the majority of Americans believed that the appointment process must wait.

Despite this consensus, Barrett’s nomination to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg quickly proceeded, and her recent confirmation and the issues that now hang in the balance trouble many Americans. This rushed process that occurred eight days before Election Day has caused many to call out the blatant injustice from 2016. 

Barrett’s confirmation with a 52-48 vote starkly contrasts RBG’s in which she received bipartisan support in 1993. Although Barrett may now fill Ginsburg’s seat, RBG’s powerful legacy will not fade as quickly as her seat was taken. Americans today continue to reap the benefits of the great strides RBG made on the Supreme Court for marginalized groups within America, and this will not be forgotten as she rests in power.