In the next few days and weeks, we are going to learn who everyone is, who has character and who has only a ruthless drive for power. The idea of a republic is on trial in so many ways in 2020. Now the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg brings it all into perfect focus.
In a republic to have power is not necessarily to use it for purely selfish gain. A republic only works when power is tempered by civility, decency, magnanimity and a fundamental sense of fairness. One of the great jurists and human rights advocates of our time has died. Her last wish was that she not be replaced before the people have had the chance to express their will (in November) at a pivotal time in American history. Surely, a lifetime of remarkable service to the United States deserves that final tribute.
Every U.S. senator now stands in the spotlight of history. Each senator will now be revealed either as a leader of integrity or a bag of gross hypocrisy. The “principle” that made the Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm (or even vet) the previous president’s nominee for a vacant seat on the court four years ago should automatically make them refuse to confirm or vet a nominee just a few weeks before the 2020 election. There is no argument or maneuver, no defense or justification, no trick or work of casuistry, that can legitimize a reversal of “principle” now. If the Republicans try to force through a nominee to the court, it means that all that talk in 2016 was just humbug, just a cover for the naked expression of destructive power.
The next few weeks are going to determine whether we can begin to return to a world of basic decency, fairness and mutual respect, or whether it is now only about power and self-interest. Mitch McConnell has already told us who he is, within hours of the shocking announcement, with the distinguished jurist not dead for even 24 hours.
We all need to remember that every time we fall to a lower plateau of integrity in the public arena, we further endanger the future of the American republic and make it easier for the next descent and the one after that. The disintegration of America has reached a critical stage. My fear is that the Republicans of the Senate may choose short-term triumph and hasten the death of our magnificent but surprisingly fragile system.
Let’s see who we are …