The Personality Cult of Ginsburg
"RBG" has attained celebrity and virtual deity status among many leftists. That's a problem.
Many Americans lament the demise of the federal judiciary from an independent and objective part of the American system into a branch of government that seems more self-serving and politicized than ever before. But while leftist and conservative justices alike have strayed from the vision of our Founding Fathers, none have eclipsed the cult-like status of the Supreme Court’s oldest justice: 85-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Of course, Supreme Court justices are only human, and they’re just as susceptible to outside influences as any politicians on Capitol Hill. But the very nature of their position demands more discipline in order to fight the temptations of a society that can turn just about anyone into a celebrity overnight.
And even the most independent nominee can become more ideologically hardened after surviving the grind of the nomination process.
Politico’s Peter Canellos writes, “Even if nominees aren’t particularly partisan at the outset, they quickly learn to recognize their friends and enemies; the loyalties forged in the furnace of the confirmation process carry over onto the bench. It’s only human that such anger or gratitude, growing out of a trauma that some compare to a near-death experience, would alter judicial decision-making.”
Canellos adds, “There’s a third element to the politicization of the courts, though. That’s the visceral sense of approval and validation that judges get when they please their fans. The 60,000-member Federalist Society provides conservative judges with a Greek chorus of admirers. And many members of the Supreme Court, such as the late Antonin Scalia, couldn’t resist taking bows before conservative audiences for court rulings that devastated liberals.”
But earning the admiration of a respected organization like the Federalist Society is nothing compared to Ginsburg’s celebrity status among leftists, many of whom weren’t even born when Ginsburg was appointed to the High Court by Bill Clinton in 1993. From the “RGB” documentary of last year to the recent biopic entitled “On the Basis of Sex,” the leftist Supreme Court justice is being turned into a mythical figure. How can fair-minded Americans expect Ginsburg, a former ACLU general counsel, to make independent decisions based on the law when she’s been deified by millions on the Left?
As Ginsburg said in the RGB film, “I’m 84 years old and everyone wants to take their picture with me.”
In 2016, seemingly emboldened by her superstardom, she joked that it’d be time to move to New Zealand if Donald Trump were elected. “I can’t imagine what the country would be,” she said. Later, under intense criticism from both the right and the left, she admitted regret for the comments. But she never apologized — not to the American people, nor to the Republican nominee.
As Stephanie Mencimer writes at the far-left Mother Jones, “Ginsburg has since been tattooed on women’s arms, immortalized in song and a children’s book, and featured on [‘Saturday Night Live.’] She’s had her face plastered on everything from tote bags to water bottles. This merchandising could not have happened without the justice’s blessing; the law gives her a fair amount of control over the use of her image, as she well knows. Rather than start copyright battles, Ginsburg has encouraged her cult following. She assisted Carmon and Knizhnik with their book, appeared in the CNN documentary and makes a cameo in ‘On the Basis of Sex,’ carries an RBG tote bag in public, distributes RBG T-shirts to friends and admirers, and generally has reveled in her celebrity.”
Mencimer adds that Ginsburg’s desire to hang on to her position on the Court actually threatens to undermine the Left’s agenda. For years Ginsburg rejected suggestions by “progressive” supporters that she retire during the Barack Obama years to ensure a like-minded successor. Now, her desire to fight on through various health issues — including recent surgery for lung cancer — at an advanced age may be setting the stage for a conservative replacement if she’s unable to outlast Donald Trump.
But that’s not stopping her.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg writes, “Even as she was secretly undergoing a series of tests and consulting an array of doctors, she made multiple public appearances and was interviewed in front of audiences three times, at one point reciting from memory the words of several arias from an opera about her famous friendship and legal dueling with the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.”
The Left has professed to do just about anything, even offering to donate their own organs to Ginsburg, in order to keep her on the bench.
But should Ginsburg retire or pass away before Trump leaves office, allowing him to replace her with a Constitution-friendly justice, the Left may one day regret the cult of personality that they alone created. And rightly so.