I have previously criticized Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her continued political comments in speeches to liberal and academic groups. While not unique on the Court, Ginsburg is something of recidivist in abandoning the long-standing avoidance of political discussions by justices. Despite repeated controversies in speaking publicly on political issues, Ginsburg is clearly undeterred. Ginsburg was back this week holding forth on political issues that justices have historically avoided in maintain the integrity of the Court. As in her 2017 speech, Ginsburg again repeated her view that sexist voters prevented Hillary Clinton from being elected president.
Speaking at a Columbia University Women’s Conference event, Ginsburg said
“I think it was difficult for Hillary Clinton to get by even the macho atmosphere prevailing during that campaign, and she was criticized in a way I think no man would have been criticized. I think anyone who watched that campaign unfold would answer it the same way I did: Yes, sexism played a prominent part.”
I have long been a critic of Supreme Court justices embracing the era of what I have called “the celebrity justice.” Justices are increasingly appearing before highly ideological groups and inappropriately discussing thinly veiled political subjects or even pending issues. I have been equally critical of other justices, including the late Antonin Scalia, for such comments. She previously called President Trump a “faker.” Ginsburg remains a notable recidivist in this type of conduct.
It would not seem much to ask for justices to avoid commenting on politics while on the Court. These justices are allowed to sit on a court of nine. The price of that ticket should be utter neutrality in politics. Instead, Ginsburg appears to relish her public persona.
Moreover, Ginsburg appears out of her element as a political commentator. Polls continue to show that Clinton remains deeply disliked by a huge number of voters who view her has dishonest and untrustworthy. Indeed, after an active speaking tour promoting her book and her retrospective on her loss to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has actually become even more unpopular. We have previously noted that polls have shown Trump would still beat Clinton in a head-to-head election (and here). While Trump is also facing declining polls, he is at the same level or even higher than Clinton. Clinton posted the lowest polling numbers yet with only 36% popularity and an unfavorable rating of 61%. Polls are showing Trump at 38 percent. While a new poll shows that half of people feel Trump should resign, it is clear that they want Clinton even less — the very same position held by many in the campaign.
Ginsburg refuses to accept that Clinton could be viewed simply as a bad candidate regardless of her gender. The establishment all but anointed Clinton as their candidate in the primary, polls clearly showed that the voters did not want an establishment figure so the DNC worked to guarantee the nomination to the ultimate establishment figure. However, it clearly goes deeper than that. Even against one of the most unpopular figures in history (Trump was even worse at 63 percent unfavorable), Clinton could not even maintain a majority of women with favorability ratings.
While Ginsburg previously apologized for her past political commentary as “ill-advised,” it is equally ill-informed. Yet, Ginsburg is not alone in ignoring polls before and after the election. After the election, Clinton alternatively blamed sexism, racism, self-hating women, domineering boyfriends, Russian hackers, Bernie Sanders, and of course, James Comey.
In the end, it does not matter if Ginsburg is right or wrong in seeing voters as sexist. Her continuing discussion of political issues out of the Court undermines both the Court and her legacy.