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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