Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a hero to many on the left as a reliable liberal vote in a narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court. With the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year, the future of the Court may depend on the health and well-being of its oldest serving member. At 83 years, Justice Ginsburg’s future on the Court factors heavily into both parties’ calculations as they weigh the probable make-up of the bench over the current presidential term.
So far, Ginsburg isn’t giving any indication that she’s ready to step down. In an interview Thursday night with the BBC, when asked how much longer she intended to remain a sitting justice, Ginsburg was at first non-committal: “At my age you have to take it year by year. I know I’m OK. What will be next year?” But then she added, with characteristic humor, “I’m hopeful however, because my most senior colleague, the one who most recently retired, Justice John Paul Stevens, stepped down at age 90. So I have a way to go.”
That would be good news for many Court watchers on the left. Everything from abortion to redistricting to the reigning in of executive power may be on the line with her vote, with three other liberal justices comprising just enough votes to create a current even split on the Court. With the occasional swing vote by Justice Kennedy, especially on issues of reproductive and LGBT rights, each liberal vote is considered critical to prevent a swift erosion of progressive gains even after a replacement for Scalia is seated.
After the election, Justice Ginsburg created a stir when she spoke out against Donald Trump once again. “He’s a faker,” she quipped. “How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns?” But Thursday night she showed more restraint, while still making her views quite clear. Addressing the controversy regarding the media’s relationship with President Trump, Ginsburg leapt to the defense of the former. “Think of what the press has done in the United States,” she said, discussing the Watergate incident. “That story might never have come out if we didn’t have the free press that we do.”
“I read The Washington Post and The New York Times every day,” Ginsburg added. “I think that the reporters are trying to tell the public the way things are.”
And while she refrained from mentioning Trump by name, there was no mistaking he remained the subject of her strongest critiques. The country was not mindful, she believes, of “what makes America great.” She reminded the audience in attendance of “the idea of our nation being receptive to all people, welcoming all people.” And speaking of her own immigrant roots, she related that her father had “to leave the old world where the conditions were not good to come here and make a living and raise a family — that is America to me,” she said, to applause from the attendees.