In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on September 18, Kamala Harris — Senator, Democratic vice presidential candidate, and very possibly the next president of the United States if Joe Biden keels over as imminently as he seems poised to do — wrote the following tweet: “‘My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.’ – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her final moments before passing. We must honor that wish and fight for her legacy.”
Democrats have seized upon Ginsburg’s dying wish as reason to delay the nomination of a new justice until after the presidential election. This is not simply a flawed argument: it is also a revealing one. It shows quite precisely what the Party of Biden and Harris, of BLM and Antifa, believes.
Granted: in our age of legislative deadlock and judicial supremacy, court confirmations are bound to be high-stakes, down-and-dirty things. The Democrats took this to unconscionable extremes last time, provoking what can only be described as a moral panic by slandering Brett Kavanaugh as a rapist on the basis of flimsy anecdotes about his youth in an attempt to prop up uncorroborated allegations.
But as a rule, folks on both sides will say just about whatever they have to in order to get the right guy in. That’s not news: it’s just politics, and I wish the Right had wised up to it sooner. So no Republicans should be losing a minute’s sleep, for example, over the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is taking a different position on Ginsburg’s replacement than he did on Antonin Scalia’s when Obama, not Trump, was nearing the end of his term. The issue is not the integrity of Mitch McConnell, it’s the trajectory of America. The soul of the country and the lives of the unborn are at stake in the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, we we’ve got bigger concerns than whether Cocaine Mitch plays nice.
The significance of the Ginsburg’s-dying-wish meme isn’t that it’s a shamelessly desperate leftist power play. The real issue is that Democrats thought to use the tactic at all, presumably because they believe some portion of the American electorate will imagine that the final wishes of a dying woman — however esteemed she was — carry any weight whatsoever in the American system.
They don’t. None. Zip. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wishes — objects of interest and concern for her admirers though they may be — are profoundly irrelevant in determining who should pick the next Supreme Court Justice. The only relevant constraints and directives in that process are those outlined in the United States Constitution.
To suggest otherwise is to imply that Americans no longer wish to operate within their own republican system, or that they simply do not understand what that system entails. Since antiquity, anyone who has ever wanted to be politically free has had to commit to obeying laws only, and not the whims of any one human being.
When the Persian tyrant Xerxes was marching his massive army into Greece to conquer it, he asked the exiled Spartan king Demaratus why the Greeks dared resist him. The Greek historian Herodotus records Demaratus’ answer: Xerxes’ soldiers fought for him because they feared his punishment if they disobeyed. But the Spartans, said Demaratus, “are free, but not entirely so: their master is the law. They fear it far more than your men, Xerxes fear you.” Spartans would fight until every last one of them was dead in the ground rather than submit to rule by any man.
After Herodotus, this central idea was developed by countless other theorists of freedom — from Plato and Cicero to James Madison and John Adams. The logic of liberty demands that we tremble before the law, but fear no man. If we obey any human being, it is because that human being is an agent of the law.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was such an agent, but it was not in that capacity that she made her dying wish. It was in her capacity as a private citizen that Ginsburg made the request which Kamala Harris asks us to hear and obey. That is not the logic of liberty: it is the logic of hero-worship, tyranny, and slavery.
That logic is now the governing logic of the American Left. It is a logic of terrorism and mob rule, a logic that demands we bend the knee to certain revered figures — to George Floyd and the hateful campaigns of racialist violence that have been carried out in his name, for instance — rather than to our laws.
The Democrats claim it is Trump who threatens to destroy our institutions. But to anyone with eyes to see, it is clear who threatens the very foundations of our regime. Americans should vote accordingly.
More from Spencer Klavan: The Two Competing Philosophies of Election 2020
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