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OMG RBG!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of blessed memory (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Could 2020 possibly be more tumultuous?:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died on Friday. She was 87.

The cause was complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, the Supreme Court said.

May her memory be eternal. I didn’t agree with her jurisprudence, but she was an admirable woman who served her country faithfully.

Now look:

I’m not sure what I think about this.

As a conservative and a Christian, I am all in for what McConnell proposes. I have said in this space before that as the country moves left, I believe the federal courts are going to be the last line of defense for religious liberty and the things for which social conservatives care most. The radicalization of the Democratic Party has deepened my conviction on this point.

Thinking about the country, though, I cannot see how doing this before the election serves the common good.

But: do we really have a common good anymore?

If you are the praying type, pray for our country, and pray for the peace of Justice Ginsburg’s soul.

UPDATE: I’ve been trying to think through my position on this clearly, and not give in to knee-jerk thoughts. I’m moving a lot closer to the “pull the trigger, Mitch” position on this. A lot of it has to do with the kinds of thoughts in the liberal NYT columnist Michelle Goldberg’s piece this morning. Excerpts:

Two years ago at The Atlantic Festival, Senator Lindsey Graham defended the Republican decision to block President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process is started, we’ll wait to the next election,” Graham said.

Now that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, only a month and a half before the 2020 election, the chance that the senator keeps his word seems infinitesimal. (He has already said that after Brett Kavanaugh, “the rules have changed.”)

Mitch McConnell certainly has no intention of abiding by the so-called McConnell rule, an invention to justify the Senate’s refusal to consider Garland in March 2016. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said then. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

But only hours after Ginsburg’s death was announced, McConnell said in a statement, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” His tortuous excuse is that his made-up rule is meant to apply only when the Senate and the presidency are controlled by different parties.

I can certainly understand why Lindsey Graham changed his mind after the Kavanaugh hearings, which the Democrats turned into a travesty. Remember this fiery outburst from a properly enraged Graham?

We know — we know — that the Democrats will stop at nothing to have their way with the Supreme Court. We know it because of what they did to Kavanaugh. I remember not having the least interest in Kavanaugh’s nomination — he struck me as just another College Republican type — until I saw what the Democrats tried to do to him. Emotionally, this connects. This is what the left does to conservatives, or to anyone not on side, at institutions they control. So the idea that a quick Trump SCOTUS nomination would be unfair to Democrats goes nowhere with me.

More Goldberg:

And if Republicans do give Ginsburg’s seat to some Federalist Society fanatic, Democrats must, if they win back the presidency and the Senate, abolish the filibuster and expand the court, adding two seats to account for both Garland and Ginsburg.

Boy, I tell you, this is red flag to a bull stuff for me. This too, from the same CNN contributor who tweeted that Nick Sandmann, the MAGA hat boy, had a “punchable” face:

We. Do. Not. Negotiate. With. Terrorists. 

We. Do. Not. Give. Rioters. A. Veto. 

I wrote a couple of weeks back about a 2018 stage debate about political correctness. On one side, Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry; on the other, Michelle Goldberg and Michael Eric Dyson. At one point, Peterson asked Goldberg and Dyson to draw a line saying when, in their personal view, the left would go too far. Goldberg hemmed and hawed, while Dyson simply mocked Peterson as a possessor of “white privilege” merely for asking the question. I really do believe that for many on the left, extremism in pursuit of their goals is no vice.

Finally, from Goldberg’s piece:

Replacing a progressive icon on the Supreme Court with a hard-core reactionary — one who will overturn Roe v. Wade, decimate civil rights law and fully unshackle big business — is an existential matter for the right.
I’m not entirely sure what she means by “an existential matter,” but I do believe it is an existential matter for social conservatives. We see how radical the left has become, in very short order. It is also clear that as Baby Boomers die, the balance of power among voters will shift strongly to the left. I have been saying for years in this space that the federal judiciary is going to be the last line of defense for social and religious conservatives, as the legislative and executive branches lurch leftward. That is weighing heavily on my mind right now.
So I’m strongly leaning this morning towards backing what McConnell is going to do.
The only thing that worries me — and it’s a big one — is that this will all but destroy what legitimacy the Supreme Court has in the eyes of half the country. But what does that ultimately mean? That the left is going to have to start living with what conservatives have had to live with for a very long time? What?
Check out this Gallup poll. This year, SCOTUS had only 40 percent of Americans saying that they had a lot of confidence in the Court. The last time that rating hit 50 percent? 2002. It has been in the 30s and 40s for most of the past 50 years. The highest rating was 56 percent, in 1985. The Court has rarely been popular. But “popularity” is not a synonym for “legitimacy.” I think we can’t really know in advance how many people will see the Supreme Court as illegitimate — and what that would mean.
Besides, the left is in thrall to a poisonous racialist ideology that declares the constitutional and historical foundation of the United States to be morally illegitimate. They’re taking down statues of the Founders, the very men who gave us the Supreme Court. How much longer will the left recognize the legitimacy of the Court anyway?
Whatever happens, I believe confidently that this moment is one more moment in the unraveling of the Republic.

UPDATE.2: Erick Erickson just posted this. He’s right: if the GOP does not forward a nominee, its voters will revolt.

UPDATE.3: A record 415 comments appeared overnight. I’m going through them now. This one from Jonah R. stands out:

Tonight the Internet erupted in anger, shock, and highly specific threats of violence and destruction, even outright literal war, from people unafraid to use their real names. All this comes after a summer of rioting, violence, burning, looting, statue toppling, harassment, and intimidation.

At this point, purely from a strategic perspective, Trump and McConnell may as well just go ahead and do as they please. If they give in on this, they’re only postponing the violence and lunacy, because this summer has shown that there’s always going to be some next thing for Democrats who are too emotionally invested in politics to use as an excuse for making threats and burning things down.

UPDATE.4:Andrew Sullivan’s weekly column came out on Friday, before the RBG news emerged. But it’s relevant. I think it’s behind a paywall (I’m a subscriber, so I can’t be sure).  In it, he talks about how social media has rewired our brains to make us all more emotional and more extreme. He begins by talking about how much he can’t stand Trump, and how he plans to vote for Biden. But:

The second, lesser reason is the madness on the left. Most actual Democrats are sane, and they nominated a sane old centrist whom I will gladly vote for. But too many in left-media questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency from 2016 onwards, citing Russia and voter suppression. And the constant delegitimization of liberal democracy by left intellectuals has taken a toll almost as heavy as Trump’s. Every major corporation and cultural institution — from Google to the New York Times — now pays tribute to an extremist ideology, critical race theory, that despises liberal democracy as a mere mask for the brutal, unending oppression of non-whites.

An Electoral College victory for Trump, if he loses the popular vote again, would, in this new elite consensus, prove beyond doubt the centuries’ long grip of “white supremacy”. Some are already calling such a victory illegitimate, even though it would be completely constitutional, under the rules everyone has agreed to. The sickening street violence that the far left has downplayed, and permitted to run riot in major cities could be a mere taste of what is to come — along with ever-stronger white nationalist gangs instigating or responding in kind. (Trump’s toleration of this dangerous right-extremism in the past four years is as unforgivable as the left’s excuses for murderous violence.) But the upshot is the same: we will be lucky if the country doesn’t erupt in large-scale civil violence by the end of all this.

And the reason this dystopian scenario is so credible is not just the fault of these political actors. It’s ours too — thanks to the impact of social media. I think we’ve under-estimated just how deep the psychological damage has been in the Trump era — rewiring the minds of everyone, including your faithful correspondent, in ways that make democratic discourse harder and harder and harder to model. The new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, is, for that reason, a true must-watch. It doesn’t say anything shockingly new, but it persuasively weaves together a whole bunch of points to reveal just how deeply and thoroughly f*cked we are. Seriously, take a look.

UPDATE.5: Wise letter from a reader:

As you ponder the proper response to the court vacancy, consider that as long as the right and left wings continue to radicalize and consolidate at the expense of a disintegrating center it must follow that institutional legitimacy will continue to erode. The reason, it seems to me, is as simple as it is axiomatic: without compromise there is only raw exercise of power. American institutional legitimacy has been based on a culture of compromises, even extreme ones like declaring unalienable rights, but allowing slavery, and–adding insult to injury–counting slaves to determine representation in Congress.  The notion was that agreement even on very basic matters is not always achievable.

Once one side considers other side to have gone too far to permit compromise–as has been increasingly  the case–there ceases to be a commitment to institutions except as tools for enforcing an ideological agenda. Legitimacy erodes and eventually vanishes as each side wields power and other side finds the institutions used as weapons against them.

We have now reached a point in this declining legitimacy where the extreme left embraces an ideology that declares our institutions inherently racist and the radical right denounces our institutions as part of a “deep state” operated by the cultural elites.

As long as this polarized dynamic persists each side will be inclined to use raw power to make the institutions meet their needs without consideration of the other side. This is why for many years we have seen Republicans or Democrats violate common practices of accommodation in governance in favor of imposing their will when they were in a position to do it. Think of the Republican efforts under McConnell to grab a SCOTUS nomination from the sitting president, but think also of the Democrats under Obama using the dodge of passing the  Affordable Care Act as part of “budget reconciliation” to skirt the 60 votes otherwise needed in the Senate.

So, to our danger, we may be in a situation in which it’s not a matter of preserving legitimacy but of choosing which group you’d rather have offending the other. As long as this polarization continues, no institution can long retain legitimacy anyway since every part of government will have to choose sides or accept whatever branding is done for them by others.

As for SCOTUS, remember it was Democrat [FDR — RD] who first suggested expanding the Court when he couldn’t get his way. As things now stand the idea will be floated again by either party the moment the need arises and they sense they have the power to do it. Each side will do what they think they have to do to gain and maintain power.

Consider, too, that the polarized loss of legitimacy could increase exponentially if there is a disputed election in the midst of a fight over the court. We’ve come a long way from 2000 when either Bush or Gore, to their lasting credit, would have walked away after the Supreme Court’s decision and in which the American people would have acquiesced to the outcome.

UPDATE.6: This thread:

UPDATE.7: Haven’t checked comments in about 18 hours, because it’s the weekend, and I try to have a life. Look what is ahead of me:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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