New Supreme Court appointment violates Ginsburg’s legacy

Grit is the presence of an indomitable spirit, a singular strength of character, and, above all, courage 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented the purest physical manifestation of grit conceivable. Ginsburg outlasted systematic and targeted discrimination at the hands of a field openly hostile towards women. At Harvard, Ginsburg was chastised by the highest authorities at the college for taking a spot a man could have filled. Ginsburg struggled to find a job until her favorite professor at Columbia refused to recommend any new graduates until U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri hired her as a clerk. Law firms would offer salaries significantly below her male colleagues despite her impressive academic record.  

It would be nigh impossible to detail every barrier that Ginsburg demolished her in slow, steady march for gender equality. As a student, Ginsburg was the first woman to ever work on the Harvard Law ReviewGinsburg was the first woman to become a full professor at Columbia Law School, and co-founded the Women’s Rights Project with the American Civil Liberties Union. Ginsburg would argue six gender discrimination cases in front of the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1978 – winning four 

As a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg authored opinions which expanded human rights in the United States. Ginsburg’s majority opinion in the 1993 case, United States v. Virginia ruled that public universities must admit women under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Anyone familiar with Ginsburg’s life and accomplishments understands the place of pain and struggle her opinion originates.  

“Generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” said Ginsburg for the majority.  

Outside the average description for any normal person is exactly how you could describe Justice Ginsburg. Ferocious intellect and commitment to civil rights guided Justice Ginsburg throughout her career. Famously, in the 2013 case, Shelby County v. HolderGinsburg dissented from a 5-4 majority declaring preclearance under the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional.  

[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” said Ginsburg in her dissent.  

Indeed, Ginsburg was known for her fiery dissenting opinions like Shelby County. However, Ginsburg believed in the power of collegiality and the public trust of the judiciary. Regardless, in the waning years of her life, Ginsburg found herself writing dissenting opinions more often as the Trump administration had received two choices for the Supreme Court.  

Throughout the final two decades of Ginsburg’s life, she fought colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, injuries from falling, surgery for malignancies on her lung, and radiation for the return of pancreatic cancer. Despite hardship Ginsburg rarely missed court – powered by grit and determination Ginsburg never relented until the day she passed. Ginsburg was a lion of the civil rights movement and an ardent defender of women’s rights – no single woman has been more influential than her on the modern feminist movement.  

It is a shame that Senate Republicans are violating her legacy.  

In her last moments, Ginsburg made clear her most fervent dying wish – that the next president would choose her replacement on the Supreme Court. As a courtesy to Ginsburg, our impeached President Donald Trump recommended U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26 – just eighteen days after Ginsburg’s passing.  

The irony of Senate Republicans moving to nominate a third Trump nomination in an election year just four years after refusing to have hearings for U.S. Court of Appeals for this District of Columbia Judge, Merrick Garland has been noted by many. However, the focus on Republican hypocrisy – as if it is anything new – seems undue given the legacy of the woman they are trying to erase.  

Republicans have long expressed antipathy towards civil rights while outwardly trying to maintain a sheen of respectability. However, actions speak louder than words and their inimical, outrageous attack on women’s rights cannot be made any clearer by their actions. Trump is a credibly accused rapist and an open misogynist. By working to confirm Barrett, Senate Republicans violate values that Ginsburg worked her entire career to affirm.  

The nomination of Barrett is the culmination of years of attacks on women, LGBTQ+, and Black, Indigenous, and People of colorSupreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas, both credibly accused sexual predators, stand as monuments to their assault on human rights. Ginsburg’s seat has long been coveted by conservatives as the ultimate victory of the conservative legal movement. Its not hard to see why – abortion rights, civil rights, disability rights, access to health care, and marriage rights have been under constant legal attack by conservatives since those rights were conceived. Barrett, it seems, is poised to help conservative lawmakers claim ultimate victory on each of those issues.  

Legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s provision allowing parents to keep their kids on their health insurance until 26 will be considered on the Supreme Court in the coming weeks. Should Barrett be confirmed, an inevitability, this provision will likely be struck down and millions will be kicked off their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic. Barrett’s voting record on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals indicates that abortion access and marriage rights are close to follow.  

Ginsburg exemplified qualities many strive towards and few achieve – righteousness in the face of injustice and persistence in the face of hardship. While researching for this article I came across two quotes from Ginsburg that stood out to me – the first was at a Brown University commencement address:  

“No door should be closed to people willing to spend the hours of effort needed to make dreams come true.”  

The second, was an addition to a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. when she announced her dissent in Shelby County 

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”  

Together these quotes create a call-to-action for our country to live up to the qualities that Ginsburg demonstrated throughout her life. The nomination of Barrett means that many doors will close to people spending the backbreaking hours trying to make their dreams come true. We must demonstrate righteousness in the face of injustice and persistence in the face of hardship for every person who chooses to dream the American dream. We must remember our steadfast commitment to justice and carry out our task with Ginsburg in a ferocity. Ginsburg led the way for decades, and now it is our turn to carry on the fight.