Issues & Insights

The Democrats’ Notorious RBG Maneuver

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court

I&I Editorial

Impeachment has backfired far beyond the worst nightmares Democrats could have imagined. In its aftermath, President Donald Trump’s approval rating is actually now at its highest ever.

For them, it is the fourth quarter and the clock is getting close to zero, with Election Day nine months off. Joe Biden is fading, the party asking to take over health care can’t count votes in a modest-sized state, and its leader in Congress is so unglued she rips up Trump’s State of the Union speech. But is there a Hail Mary pass some prominent figure on the left could attempt, to give Democrats hope?

Yes, there is. The near-87-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has in recent years become the most beloved luminary serving in government to rank-and-file, left-leaning Democrats, even gaining a trendy new nickname, “The Notorious RBG.” Her life was the subject of a $20 million successful Hollywood movie released on Christmas Day, 2018.

After a laudable, years-long struggle, Ginsburg is now cancer-free. She has sat on the highest court in the land for more than a quarter century, and is renowned for her work ethic and her love for her work. If she could be persuaded to announce her retirement, to take effect at the end of the court’s current term, it would electrify and focus Trump opponents like nothing that has come before.

The 2020 presidential campaign would be changed into something entirely different from what it currently is. Ginsburg’s unusual decision would be viewed as a self-sacrificial act, motivated by pure principle. You can see the placards: “Ruth Saves America!”

Odds are it would not work, of course; Republicans are in the majority in the U.S. Senate, and Trump is likely to choose for Ginsburg’s successor Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a sharp-minded, likable mother of seven, one with special needs and two adopted from Haiti. Thanks to her attractive personal background, Barrett is well-inoculated against the kind of personal attacks launched by Democrats against Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas.

But who can be absolutely sure? Kavanaugh’s confirmation took nearly three months. A great deal can turn up over that period of time, as armies of Democrat opposition researchers and left-wing journalists and activists scour every move you and your family, relatives, and associates have ever made since adolescence. There may, in fact, already be damaging dirt about Barrett locked away in Democrats’ files.

Consider the best-case scenario for Trump haters. Ginsburg announces her retirement in, say, late May. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell schedules hearings for July or August. The Democratic National Convention in July would be dominated by the nomination. Any of the current Democrat candidates could use it to rally increased support as nominee.

If the president’s initial choice for the court somehow crashed and burned, a pall would descend over the Republican National Convention in August. The president’s second choice might be announced that month; for McConnell to schedule hearings before the election, however, might be viewed as unreasonable; why not wait until the American people choose a president the next month?

On the other hand, scheduling hearings after Election Day would mean a lame-duck Senate voting on a lifetime Supreme Court appointment – perhaps after an election giving Democrats the majority in the upper house and maybe the White House too.

A Crazy Move But Perhaps The Democrats’ Only Hope

Skeptics of a Notorious RBG Hail Mary pass will call all this absurd – giving up a precious left-controlled Supreme Court seat for nothing.

But after last week – maybe the best of his presidency – the prospects for defeating Trump are greatly diminished, and right now it looks like he is going to get to replace her anyway. Ginsburg’s fellow Clinton appointee, Justice Stephen Breyer, will be 82 in August and would be 86 by the end of a Trump second term. It’s not a bad bet that a reelected Trump would get to choose the successors of both Ginsburg and Breyer.

So why not do anything that offers an outside chance of allowing Democrats to keep those seats? What is more terrifying to the left than the prospect of a 7-to-2 conservative, originalist majority on the Supreme Court for more than a generation into the future? For one thing, there is little question the Roe v. Wade decision that has allowed nationwide abortion-on-demand for nearly a half century would be overturned by such a future court.

Trump has proved himself a maestro in goading Democrats, but the RBG Maneuver might turn the tables and goad him into a major miscalculation; the wise thing for the president to do might well be to wait until after the election to choose a replacement for Ginsburg – but can anyone imagine this president holding back on the opportunity to make a Supreme Court appointment?

What’s more, even if the nomination went perfectly smoothly and Trump successfully replaced Ginsburg with Barrett, or another Federalist Society-vetted dream-come-true nominee for conservatives, Democrats might find a way to use that Trump win to turn the tide against him between now and November. Again, unlikely but possible. And Democrats right now see a bleak road of defeat ahead, so they may have nothing to lose.

Odd as it seems, the presidency for the next four years may rest in the hands of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, should she choose to make one of the most extraordinary decisions in American political history.

— Written by Thomas McArdle


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28 comments

  • I’m not sure that I follow the logic.
    If the Democrats are losing, and losing badly enough for a Hail Mary, then there is no need for Trump to nominate someone until after the election. Instead of being pushed into a dubious play for another touchdown, why wouldn’t Trump simply run out the clock?
    Even if Trump does intend to run out the clock, he could still try to goad the Democrats into naming their choice. That would have the potential of being highly divisive within the Democrats’ coalition right before the election!
    On the other hand, if the Democrats are winning, then there is no need for RBG to resign. Why give up a sure thing for something less certain?

    • Excellent points! The only thing I might quibble with is your reference to a Dem “coalition.” The party is already split to pieces; I don’t know if they could even reach a consensus on whom a SC replacement for RBG should be.

      • ” I don’t know if they could even reach a consensus”
        I agree, I don’t think they could. And that’s my point. Being pushed into floating names is a ‘free’ divisive distraction play by Trump that says “We Repubs know what we’re doing, you Dems don’t.”

    • The dems can’t realistically expect RBG to survive another term so if they aren’t motivated already I don’t know that this would change anything.

  • “Consider the best-case scenario for Trump haters.” Let’s count the “best case scenarios for Trump haters” that have crashed and burned. Russia collusion. Comey firing obstruction. Emoluments suit. Travel ban suit. Military funds transfer to build the wall suit. Impeachment for quid pro quo. Impeachment for obstruction of Congress. But hey, maybe RBG’s retirement will be the one that finally gets him, so go for it!

  • You may be right but I think Ginsburg loves being a justice more than life itself. I think she is there until her death. Just my two cents.

  • First of all RBG will never retire. Secondly, way to many things would have to fall in place for this to happen. And third, with the actions of the current National Socialists, they don’t have anyone who can beat Trump. Fourth, With Trump and the Republican party approval numbers as high as they are, a win for the NAZI party is highly unlikely.

    • If RBG doesn’t retire because of the “Trump Presidency,” her ability to insure accurate and reasonable decisions will be her downfall due to age. Clerks cannot substitute for the justice, she is frail and everone is aware that she is only “hanging” in their to deny Trump this additional choice. A 6-3 panel is the death grip for the Dem’s. However, it could be possible if RBG demonstrates her culpability to age and decision making, she could face considerable pressure to retire, which would also create additional health issues….she should retire and have these last years to write books make appearances and relish in her carreer….not be remembered for the obvious.

  • No mention that rgb is a horribly unconstitutional jurist that has damaged the supreme court immeasurably for more than 25 years. Just like calling manslaughter Ted Kennedy the lion of the senate after a 30 year career of corruption in the senate Feb should be removed for incompetence not praised for trying to destroy the constitution.

  • This strategy doesn’t make any sense. Besides, RBG is a profound egotist and won’t leave her position until she goes tits up. … This article was a waste of my time. I’m surprised wharfinger posted it.

    wharfinger’s getting bloated and not what it used to be. I’m going to Liberty Daily more and more.

  • 1. The Dems are NOT getting a majority in the Senate.
    2. Their only hope is that RBG be kept alive.

    I’ve often thought she may be an animatronic device they wheel out on occasion. She isn’t falling asleep during SC arguments; she is recharging her batteries.

  • The big reason Dems want Trump out is that they are criminals that don’t want to be exposed. RBG is a consideration but not the main one.

  • Did you catch those high cheekbones on RBG? Surely she’s got Native American blood coursing thru her veins!

  • Nice little story, not happening. RBG herself says Roe is bad law, why wouldn’t SHE vote to get rid of it now? RBG is following the Rehnquist model, deal with it.

    • The only problem she has with Roe v Wade is that it was argued on the merits as a Right to Privacy rather than a Right to Equality in a 1972 case brief of Struck v SecDef.

      Otherwise, she wrote the blistering dissents to Gonzales v Carhart and Stenburg v Carhart in a 5-4 vote ruling upholding a 2003 federal ban prohibiting partial birth abortions. She has been on record numerous times saying Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land since 1973, we respect precedent, and Roe v. Wade should not be overruled.

  • I think the editorial writers are reaching at straws trying to salvage what has been a devastating week for the Democrats. No way RBG retires.

  • Seems that RBG should be sharing the name of the Doctor who saved her from pancreatic cancer since that is seemingly a death sentence for anyone else.

  • It goes both ways. Having a Judge to appoint after the election is probably quite a motivation as well.

  • Nothing will stop Democrats from trashing any Trump nominee to the Supreme Court like they did the last tine.

  • I do not believe RGB is “cancer free”. Detecting cancer is done via imaging plus an IV drip of radioactive fluid (you read that right). I had a benign lung tumor for years, then a scan in 2016 revealed growth, and the radioactive stuff confirmed it. (For the record, I’ve never smoked.) Had surgery in December 2016; pathology showed malignant cells limited to tumor only. No chemo for me. I receive annual lung scans at the Mayo Clinc; so far, so good. But what about RBG? It’s possible doctors have ceased to give her the radioactive drip as it’s, well, radioactive, and could make her condition worse. If so, then RGB may assume she’s cancer free, but it’s just an assumption. Or an assurance by a sympathetic medico.

  • Interesting take. Trying to play Donald Trump for the dunce they imagine him to be would be very foolish, indeed. RBG’s resignation would be tantamount to the DNC “being hoisted by its own petard”. But Justice Ginsberg is not without principals, and is unlikely to be persuaded to go along with that ploy. Then again, who knows? The DNC has thoughtlessly created a sort of primary Prisoner’s Dilemma for itself & of course they know going all-in with the hard left will end their play.

  • [print-me target="#post-%ID%"]

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Issues & Insights is run by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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