Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Limits of Anti-Democratic Liberalism

Yesterday evening, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Clinton, died at the age of 87 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Whether or not Donald Trump gets to nominate his third Supreme Court Justice, or if the Democrats are able to convince Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins to help them block his nominee in the Senate, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it should be clear to everybody that the long-running liberal strategy of bypassing the popular will to use the legal system to enact progressive social change is as played out as Ginsburg’s ancient, fragile body.

For as long as I’ve been alive, indeed at least a decade longer, the American political landscape has been divided between two groups. One one hand, you have the Republicans, savvy right-wing populists who have built an almost indestructible alliance between the ruling class and socially conservative, middle-class fundamentalist Christians. On the other hand, you have the inner circle of the Democratic Party, socially radical yet economically conservative Ivy League professionals who reject the idea of class war and economic populism in favor of social engineering through elite institutions like the Supreme Court.

Only six months after Barack Obama engineered the destruction of Bernie Sanders, who wanted to expand the Democratic Party’s voter base through a revival of the New Deal, elite liberals, who are still almost certain to recapture the White House this November, now find themselves face to face with the emptiness of their political agenda. Vice President Biden, only a few years younger than Ginsburg, is unlikely to serve two terms as President. Whether or not Kamala Harris can defeat whoever the Republicans put up in 2024 is by no means guaranteed, or even likely. The the Democratic Party elite, so gleeful after the suppression of democracy in their own Democratic Party, are now looking at 4 years of holding the bag for the Covid-19 Depression, and another, almost certainly young, right-wing-extremist on the Supreme Court.

The hollowness of anti-democratic liberalism, an ideology that depended on an 87-year-old woman suffering from one of the most aggressive forms of cancer for its very survival, couldn’t be more clear. Not only are universal healthcare and free, federally subsidized higher-education off the table for the foreseeable future, the most regressive, most fundamentalist wing of American society is at long last about to realize its dream of repealing gay marriage, Roe vs. Wade, and even Griswold vs. Connecticut. By rejecting radical democracy and economic populism, the liberal Democratic Party elite has also doomed the very social and sexual liberalism and anti-racism they so loudly claim to represent. Any college history major could have told you that except for a brief period in the 1950s and 1960s, the Supreme Court has always been a bastion of anti-democratic reaction. Somehow the smartest people in the room have never been able to figure it out.

5 comments

  1. John Thurloe · · Reply

    Any people who can be so easily bullied into lockdown and mandatory masks while having their livelihoods and culture demolished sure as hell will never suck it up to fight for reproductive rights. All the noise about ‘racism’ is so much smoke but no fire.

    1. Since the only “culture” I’ve ever known is corporate America, I’d love to see it “demolished.” Sadly it’s never going to happen. And Trump’s proposed mandatory “patriotic education” is only a reboot of the way the American ruling class used the Bicentennial to erase the memory of the genocidal war in Vietnam. The more things changes….

  2. John Thurloe · · Reply

    Lockdown fascism is here and now. This is the defining issue. Ruin and resistance build. The other issues fade into irrelevance.

    1. To me it seems more like “peasants get back to work and die of Covid” fascism or “teachers go back to your badly ventilated public schools and make sure your students take it back home” fascism. Or “college athletes if you don’t want to lose your scholarships you’d better risk fucking up your lungs so your coach can get his multi-million dollar salary and we can continue to name stadiums after potential corporate donors” fascism.

  3. John Thurloe · · Reply

    So Breonna Taylor is murdered by cops without cause or warrant and nothing happens. That’s justice for you. People should turn out in serious protest.

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