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The psychology of the gerontocracy

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Mitt Romney retiring from the Senate probably merits his own thread, but I was also struck by this bit from the Atlantic article:

Two Supreme Court justices this century — William Rehnquist and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — made incredibly reckless gambles by refusing to retire strategically despite very serious health problems and advanced age. With Ginsburg, the explanation for this often centers around the “Notorious RBG” pop culture phenomenon, but I don’t think the timeline adds up — it mostly happened after the Shelby County dissent, when she had already decided not to retire despite not-terribly-subtle overtures from Obama and Leahy.* (*Speaking of people who don’t know when to quit.) My guess is that at some point, especially if your spouse has died, your job and life essentially become one, and resigning feels like suicide. This, to be clear, isn’t a defense of RBG — as a public official with that power you have to put the interests of the country first, and most justices do retire strategically. (As I’ve said before, it’s remarkable that the two liberal Republicans were more strongly committed to preserving Roe than the two liberal Democrats on the Court when Obama took office.) But where the stakes of staying on in a prestigious position are lower, as in the Senate, it’s not surprising that so many people falsely convince themselves of their indispensiblity.

At any rate, Rehnquist hit his point in 2004 while Ginsburg crapped out in 2016, a contingency that will haunt this country for decades.

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