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We contemplate eternity beneath the vast indifference of heaven

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a great justice and a great lawyer, but her having more faith in American institutions than Barack Obama (!) or Patrick “Blue Slip” Leahy (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) may end up blowing up democracy in America:

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined President Barack Obama for lunch in his private dining room in July 2013, the White House sought to keep the event quiet — the meeting called for discretion.

Mr. Obama had asked his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, to set up the lunch so he could build a closer rapport with the justiceaccording to two people briefed on the conversation. Treading cautiously, he did not directly bring up the subject of retirement to Justice Ginsburg, at 80 the Supreme Court’s oldest member and a two-time cancer patient.

He did, however, raise the looming 2014 midterm elections and how Democrats might lose control of the Senate. Implicit in that conversation was the concern motivating his lunch invitation — the possibility that if the Senate flipped, he would lose a chance to appoint a younger, liberal judge who could hold on to the seat for decades.

But the effort did not work, just as an earlier attempt by Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who was then Judiciary Committee chairman, had failed. Justice Ginsburg left Mr. Obama with the clear impression that she was committed to continuing her work on the court, according to those briefed.

It’s 1 o’clock somewhere.

As always, caveats are in order. As Rebecca Traister observes, a lot of other things had to go wrong for this to happen, starting with American constitutionalism being a web of counter-majoritarian anachronisms and media coverage of the 2016 campaign that looks even more sexist and frivolous now that we’ve seen how Joe Biden has been treated than it did at the time. I would add that William Rehnquist made exactly the same choice Ginsburg did — staying on the Court despite being in very poor health for years. Only the 111,000 votes in the midwest went his way, so here we are. Indeed, Rehnquist making the now atypical decision not to strategically retire somehow ended up with a bonus seat: O’Connor had originally intended to retire in 2006 assuming Rehnquist would in 2005, but when he didn’t do so voluntarily she went first, only in the subsequent year her husband’s dementia worsened to the point where he could no longer recognize her, and she’s said she would have stayed on. But she resigned, and as a result ended up being replaced by the one justice of the modern era more reliably partisan than Rehnquist himself. The arc of history takes a lot of detours on the path to justice.

I will also add that I don’t want to hear anything about RBG from people who spent 2016 in public platforms assuring their readers that Trump winning would be no big deal, or even from people who endlessly hyped up a bunch of inane bullshit about Clinton hoping that the (disproportionately made up of female and people of color) Democratic base in swing states would bail them out.

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