SocraticGadfly: The overrated cult of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: #hypocrisy?

February 17, 2016

The overrated cult of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: #hypocrisy?

First, Justice Ginsburg is just a liberal, not a left-liberal, and even that is in terms of Overton Window framing.

Second, upon the death of Antonin Scalia and the faux mourning in which I refused to engage, everybody Inside the Beltway, and outside worshipers at the Cult of Ruth, talked about the sweet friendship of them going to the opera.

Really? If "Lulu" were ever in DC, would she have invited him to that? Not to mention the opera about the life of Harvey Milk. I kind of doubt it. There's a whole list of LGBT-related musicals that I guess would have been off limits. No "Cabaret," "Victor/Victoria" and others.

Put another way, if Nino had lived 450 years ago, he might have been Pope Pius IV, ordering Michelangelo's nudes to be painted over. If he had invited a fellow time-warped Ginsburg to see the adulterated paintings, would she have gone along?

Per a Facebook discussion, a Clintonista said, maybe this is why our parents told us not to mix politics or religion into social settings. That may be true, but nobody put a gun to Ginsburg's head and told her she had to go to the opera with a bigot. (And besides Lulu's lesbian, the go-to choice for me, I can probably pick other operas that would offend Nino's proprieties, were he honest about applying them to the arts.) Beyond that? Yes, shut up and be quiet was "Leave It to Beaver" era. I may, in red-state ruraldom, not zip open my mouth at the office too much, but I don't have to go beyond a "necessary" level of extra-office socializing with others with whom I have very little in common on major issues.

But Ginsburg didn't have to live a compartmentalized life like that at all. She made a free choice.

All the "touting" of Ginsburg means is that she chose to enjoy artistic events with a rank bigot. Hardly a matter for praise, unless she's trying to rack up kudos for a mitzvah.

Three years later, The Nation does its own callout. Speaking of Scalia, the piece notes she did a cave to him on part of Bush v Gore.

She has called San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem "dumb and disrespectful."
Of the athletes, Ginsburg said, "if they want to be stupid, there's no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there's no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that."
I'd actually call her take on the issue, as well as on flag burning — which Hillary Clinton wanted to selectively criminalize even after the SCOTUS said it was constitutional — "dumb and disrespectful." Disrespectful to Black Lives Matter. Disrespectful to the spirit of the First Amendment while giving lip service to its letter. Disrespectful to a minority when a member of an oft-oppressed minority herself. (If another Jew failed to stand for the National Anthem after we refused to, say, bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz in late 1944, or after we turned away the MS St. Louis in 1939, would she have called that "dumb and disrespectful"?

Update, Feb. 15, 2019: Her new biographer calls her a "centrist" within liberal federal judges of the last generation. Calls her that more than once. And I agree.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A LifeRuth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent look at Ginsburg's professional, from her early New York City formative experiences, through college and struggling against women's quotas and stereotypes which first set her on the career of women's advocacy, to her work with the ACLU while a Rutgers professor, then moving to Columbia, and finally, nominated to the DC Circuit, then many years later to the Supreme Court.

De Hart personalizes Ginsburg the person, not just the judge and justice. She does explain more about her interesting relationship with Antonin Scalia, and how it included not just opera, but some mutual love for at least part of the work of judicial argumentation. (I still find the degree of investment in the friendship interesting.)

De Hart is also honest about Ginsburg moving to the center during her time on the D.C. Circuit. In fact, she uses the word "centrist" regularly.

She also does a good job of analyzing Ginsburg's work on many pivotal Supreme Court cases, as well as her take on Roe and other cases of women's rights and reproductive freedoms before she joined the court.

In this, I agree with Ginsburg's critics. It is true that Roe, and Griswold before it, did not have the tightest of argumentation. It's also true that an equity argument in addition to a privacy argument would have been great in Roe. But, it just wasn't "available" on legal precedent or close to it at that time. And, of course, Griswold was not about male-female equity but just privacy.

I also will agree with a few critics that this is relatively little about her personal life, definitely relatively little about her adult personal life. But, Ginsburg chose what she wanted to discuss in interviews.

View all my reviews

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