The Washington Post has a long feature article about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has made it abundantly clear that she has no intention of leaving the Supreme Court in order to assure that President Obama can nominate her successor. And she says she thinks a Democrat will win in 2016:
So Ginsburg understands politics but does not feel she faces a deadline to leave so that Obama, whom she admires, can choose her successor.
“I think it’s going to be another Democratic president” after Obama, Ginsburg said. “The Democrats do fine in presidential elections; their problem is they can’t get out the vote in the midterm elections.”
That strikes me as very naive for someone as politically savvy and intelligent as Ginsburg. We are still three years from a presidential election and virtually anything could happen between now and then. And it’s fairly rare for a candidate from the same party to win the presidency after another from the party has served two terms. It has happened only once in the last six decades, when the first President Bush followed Ronald Reagan in the White House. And that only happened, I think, because the Democratic candidate was one of the worst I’ve ever seen as a campaigner.
The Democratic candidate, presumably Hillary Clinton at this point, certainly has a good opportunity to win. She would be a formidable candidate. But that’s hardly a guarantee. And what Ginsburg risks by staying on the court if her political calculations are wrong can hardly be overstated. Put a Republican in the White House and replace Ginsburg with anyone who would be on the Republican short list for the Supreme Court and the results would be utterly devastating and would set back civil rights and civil liberties for decades, at the very least.
I admire Justice Ginsburg enormously. She is brilliant and tough as nails. But the bet she’s making here is one that we all must pay off if she loses.