Illustration by Afra Al-Mazrouei

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Beautiful Legacy Shrouded by Bitter Politics

The political chaos sparked by Justice Ginsburg’s death has prevented us from truly honoring the memory and legacy of a woman that championed equality and justice throughout her legal career.

Sep 27, 2020

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as the “notorious RBG,” of the U.S. Supreme Court passed away on Sept. 18 after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. Her death came just six weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential elections, sending conservatives and liberals alike into a frenzy. Ginsburg was known as a pioneer of women’s rights, social justice and as a “liberal icon.” The expansion of women’s, African American and LGBTQIA+ rights can greatly be attributed to Ginsburg’s work, and her death leaves many liberals fearing a conservative replacement ahead of the election. As a result, the mourning process for one of the U.S.’s most incredible women has become overshadowed by the politicization of her replacement.
Ginsburg’s legacy cannot be overstated. She attended Cornell University for her undergraduate degree on a scholarship and then went on to attend law programs at both Harvard and Columbia University. While at Harvard, she was one of only nine women accepted to the 500-person class. Juggling familial duties with law school, Ginsburg tended to her husband who was battling cancer and also took care of their daughter. She went on to graduate at the top of her class at Columbia, but received no job offers after graduation, as she [“struck out on three grounds: [she] was Jewish, a woman and a mother.”] (
Given the many obstacles she faced, her legal career is nothing short of impressive. As a one-woman legal powerhouse, she went on to argue many incredibly important cases. One of her most notable early cases was her fight to grant social security to widowers who have to support children, as social security was only allotted to widows. Her time on the Supreme Court gave her many opportunities to shine as a progressive judge: the 1966 case, United States v. Virginia, in which she challenged the Virginia Military Institute for barring admission of women; the 2015 case, Obergefell v. Hodges, when Ginsburg’s vote permitted the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states; and the 2016 case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which she helped overturn a contentious Texas law which made access to abortions incredibly difficult.
Before Ginsburg’s passing on Friday, she gave a statement to her granddaughter saying, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
President Trump, who clearly never learned to not speak ill of the dead, has shown little respect for Ginsburg, declaring that she was not the author of this statement and that it was concocted by Democrats to garner sympathy and electoral support.
Despite Trump’s insensitivity, it’s true that Ginsburg’s death leaves a lot at stake going into the elections. President Trump and majority leader Mitch McConnell now have the opportunity to confirm a far-right justice just weeks before election day. This could lead to a far-right majority on the court that may reverse previous decisions Ginsburg championed. Ginsburg’s vacancy will likely increase turnout and energy on both sides of the political aisle. However, it seems like Republicans are particularly motivated by the opportunity to replace her. If Trump manages to replace Ginsburg before the election, there will be a [6-3 conservative majority] ( on the court. Gaining a two-thirds majority on the Supreme Court would allow Republicans to reign over the judicial branch regardless of whether Trump is elected for a second term. The uncertainty following Ginsburg’s death also diverts attention from the Trump administration's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
And the President is wasting no time. He has already stated he will announce his nomination for Ginsburg’s replacement on Sept. 26. It is most likely that he will nominate a woman to garner as much public support as possible, considering he’s already added a male justice, Brett Kavanaugh, during his term. [It’s also likely that his nominee] ( will be either Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame graduate and mentee of Antonin Scalia, former supreme court justice, or Barbara Lagoa, a Columbia graduate who is also the first Hispanic woman to be appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court of Florida.
Ginsburg’s mourners have had no chance to truly honor her memory. It makes political sense for Trump to jump at the chance to replace her. If he manages to get senate support for a nominee before the election, he will have the chance to fill two court vacancies within his first term and expand his conservative toehold to span not only the executive and legislative branches, but also the judicial branch. But regardless of politics, the U.S.’s response to her death and attempts to honor her memory are pitiful at best. Ginsburg devoted her life to justice in all forms and she inspired millions. Her memory and her honor have been lost in the pervasive and pernicious nature of the U.S. political climate, an unacceptable and disappointing reality for a nation and its citizens who she so graciously served and defended.
Grace Bechedol is Social Media Editor. Email her feedback at
gazelle logo