• Carin Elam

Staying motivated when your heart is a little broken

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, superhero

Prior to her passing, many watched for any news about RBG's health, especially women activists who understood her role in advancing equal rights. Many guessed that she wanted to retire and planned for HRC to fill her seat in 2017 or 2018. When this wasn't an option, it was understood that she planned to serve on the bench until a Democratic president (with a Democratic Senate) could name a new justice to the Court. So, following word of a hospitalization, Rachel Maddow said out loud what many were thinking, 'we want to wrap Ruth Bader Ginsburg in bubble wrap and keep her safe' until she could return to the gym. So, when she passed, it felt like Superwoman had died.

She was substance & grace

For the public that only knew her from afar, it was inspiring to see tributes from those who knew her really well, especially tributes from those who had worked for her. Her private life appeared to be as inspiring as her public one. Exhibit A: the day that her former law clerks greeted her casket on the steps of the Supreme Court. This was a testament to her greatness. Former First families and politicians from both sides of the aisle paid their respects to her life and legacy. She was not just 'a' woman on the court. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was a woman on the court. Justice Ginsburg was the woman who fought alongside other legal giants to move our country closer to the aspirations of the Constitution. She wanted justice for all, and started this work at a time when non-whites and women were not at all considered equal in society.

So, for a few days (ok, maybe hours), it felt like partisan politics would be sidelined to respect this tiny women that paved the way toward a better, more inclusive United States.

Another gut punch

Since evil never sleeps (and, proficiently tweets), President Trump named RBG's replacement within four days of her passing. By now, 1000's of articles have been written about the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Concerns about Barrett's legal writing, qualifications, and potential conflicts of interest have been well documented. What's received less coverage is the balls (forgive the language) of these old white men who felt it was their right and obligation to fill the open seat with a woman who's legal and personal point of view is antithetical to RBG's legacy. Without an apology for the hypocrisy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (running for re-election in Kentucky against Amy McGrath) and Senator Lindsey Graham (defending his seat in South Carolina against Jaime Harrison) announced a timeline for Senate confirmation. Even after a mini-outbreak of COVID among the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee (karma), the two marshaled on.

Yet another gut punch to close out 2020.

We just couldn't watch

For many activists who had been mad since the day of the escalator ride, in which Trump launched his 2016 campaign offending Mexican Americans, few moments match the naming and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Given that it's a "normal" thing, it's odd that this inspires such rage. Naming a justice to the Supreme Court is a normal part of presidential privilege. And, this act in no way, not even close, compares to the president's other horrific decisions that have led to kids in cages, loss of life due to an absent hurricane response, turning a blind eye to police practices, and COVID denial leading to the worst pandemic response in the developed world.

But, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings amplified the systemic helplessness activists felt while protesting against Trump's Senate enablers. To see a partisan actor (Don McGahn) shepherd another partisan actor, former Bush attorney Kavanaugh, through the process without proper due process. Then, to watch Senate leadership prevent the FBI from conducting a thorough investigation into credible allegations of sexual assault, was maddening. It revealed what Steve Bannon promoted as the "deep state", but others would call white, rich-man privilege (a.k.a., America's patriarchy). Trump and Republican-party insiders were further polluting the third branch of government. (Reminder: there were no mass protests during the Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearings.)

Patriarchy: a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.

For this reason, many found it hard to watch the Barrett confirmation hearings. Fox News boasted of "DOMINATING" the cable news ratings (queue dramatic music). But, that's like boasting to be first in bumper cars. Now one was following. Less than 3 million viewers watched key points in the hearings. The audience was vastly smaller than the 20 million who watched Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh testify. With the Barrett confirmation, there was no suspense. It was understood that Democrats had no way of blocking the process and, despite best efforts, Amy Coney Barrett would be confirmed before the November election.

It could argued that the resistance was a little heartbroken and deflated. These have been a really long four years for those who started protesting in 2016. Years of shock, outrage and destruction of norms. There’s understandably a bit of volunteer fatigue. As a result, very few watched the hearings, and political posts appeared to decrease on social media for a few days. For those who regularly volunteer on GOTV efforts, there was a need to share (and see) more pictures of kids and dogs and joy.

A sense of solidarity

Fortunately, the 10.17 Women's March reminded activists that the fight was unfinished.

Photo credit: Carol Guzy/NPR

And, just before the final vote on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer delivered remarks that gave voice to the frustration of those who feel powerless and fear losing ground on civil rights, such as same-sex couples who wish to marry or adopt, couples who hope to use IVF to start a family, and registered Democrats who want their vote to count. 

A subset of Chuck Schumer's remarks, And let the record show that tonight, the Republican majority will make a mockery of its own stated principle—that the American people deserve a voice in the selection of Supreme Court Justices—completing the partisan theft of two seats on the Supreme Court using completely contradictory rationales. I know you think that this will eventually blow over. But you are wrong. The American people will never forget this blatant act of bad faith. They will never forget your complete disregard for their voices for the people standing in line right now voting their choice not your choice.

They Just Don't Get It

Twenty Republican Senators are up for re-election. All of them voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, voted to acquit the President after he was impeached, and voted to replace RBG against her dying wishes. Remember that when you vote in November. These Senators think that gerrymandering and systemic voter suppression will protect them from losing in November.

Photo credit: Rachel Maddow Show/MSNBC

Let's make sure they understand that #democracymatters, and they should represent their entire constituency.


  1. Ginsberg Clerks Remember Her as a Mentor Who Treated Them Like Family

  2. Trump Picks Amy Coney Barrett for SCOTUS Seat, Delivering on "Pro-Life" Promise

  3. Senate Won't Alter Schedule for Amy Coney Barrett Hearings Despite Coronavirus Outbreak

  4. Bush Standing by his Support of Kavanaugh

  5. California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

  6. Who Is Really Running the Government?

  7. Oxford English Dictionary: Patriarchy

  8. More than 20 million Americans glued to Kavanaugh hearing telecasts

  9. Fox News Dominates Cable News Ratings For Barrett Hearings

  10. Schumer Floor Remarks On The Nomination Of Judge Amy Coney Barrett To The United States Supreme Court

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