Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believes her nomination would probably be defeated if it came up today. She’s correct.
Ginsburg said that to practice for her Senate confirmation hearings, White House staffers in mock hearings grilled her on her work for the ACLU. During those mock hearings she told them: “There’s nothing you can do to get me to bad mouth the ACLU.”
Such grilling, though, did not happen, she said. She was confirmed 96-3.
“Today, my ACLU connection would probably disqualify me,” she said.
Ginsburg was the former director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, which would seem to make her a left-wing radical in the eyes of the Republican Party.
And yet, in 1993, Ginsburg was confirmed by the Senate on a 96-to-3 vote. That’s not a typo; here’s the roll call. Note that plenty of Republican senators whose names will sound familiar — Chuck Grassley, Kay Bailey Hutchison, John McCain, Mitch McConnell — all voted for her nomination. (Then note that in 2010, Elena Kagan confirmed on a 63-to-37 vote — and Grassley, Hutchison, McCain, and McConnell all voted against her.)
Indeed, let’s also not forget the historical context. In 1993, then-President Clinton reached out to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a leading senator on the Judiciary Committee, even though Republicans were in the minority. Clinton solicited suggested nominees for a Supreme Court vacancy, and Hatch recommended Ginsburg. Clinton agreed and Ginsburg sailed through.
This isn’t ancient history; it was just 18 years ago. The radicalization of Republican politics in the years since has been so successful, the scenario itself seems vaguely surreal, if not completely bizarre. I mean, really — a Republican senator, considered conservative by most standards, recommended a Democratic president nominate a liberal ACLU veteran for the Supreme Court? And nearly every Senate Republican went along with this, without any controversy?
In 2011, if President Obama even considered the former director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project for a Supreme Court vacancy, Republicans would be apoplectic and many Senate Democrats would likely balk, fearing voter backlash.
The political center of gravity has moved rather dramatically in a very short period of time.