Opinion: No decency or respect | Opinion | DW | 19.09.2020
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Opinion: No decency or respect

Hours after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the mudslinging over her successor began. It's shameful how disrespectful the Republicans are when it comes to the fight for power, writes DW's Ines Pohl.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was anything but squeamish. When it came to fighting for her convictions, the Supreme Court justice was tough and tactically savvy. For decades, she fought for gender equality and against LGBT discrimination. It's what made her both idolized and profoundly hated. There are few people who could cause the current divisions in the United States to become as clearly manifest as she did.

Now she has died at the age of 87 after a long battle with cancer. And the controversy surrounding the issue of her successor shows how deep the political culture in the US has sunk — how disrespectfully people and institutions are treated when it comes to the fight for sovereignty over the country's highest court.

The influence of this particular institution cannot be overstated. It decides the moral and ethical principles according to which laws are interpreted in the US — whether, for example, abortion will remain legal and whether employers can still be prohibited from discriminating against their employees based on their sexual identity.

Read moreDoes Trump have time to install a Supreme Court judge?

Honoring the deceased

There is indeed a lot at stake, and because Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, Bader Ginsburg's replacement could bolster the current conservative majority at the court for decades and cement a clear rightward political shift in the US. Yet decency dictates that you take a moment to pause, mourn and honor the achievements of the deceased — regardless of your political views.

Ines Pohl

Ines Pohl heads DW's Washington bureau

These are the practiced traditions that ultimately strengthen democracies and make peaceful coexistence possible despite all differences of opinion. Societies need rules so that they don't fall apart. Respecting the dead is a vital part of that. There is a reason why every culture has developed distinct mourning rituals.

But there are no signs of any of that at the moment in the US. News of Bader Ginsburg's death had barely broken when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the mudslinging over her successor. Donald Trump waited only until the next morning to make clear that the Republicans would do all they could to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat before the November 3 presidential election.

Watch video 02:40

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The voters should decide

The very fact that a spot on the Supreme Court carries such immense political implications is a good argument in favor of waiting until Americans have decided which political course they want to take. Then, the freshly elected president can fill the judgeship in accordance with that chosen course. But the Republicans aren't interested in considering these democratic theories. They want to do everything they can to fill that Supreme Court seat. It would take four Republican senators voting against their own party's wishes to stop the nomination going through, and that is unlikely.

Whether this decision will ultimately help the current president remains to be seen. It may well be that those people who didn't want to vote this year will now choose Democratic challenger Joe Biden — even if doing so is simply a protest against a political culture that knows only enemies and is not interested in respectful and constructive cooperation. And, ultimately, it may also be a last token of love for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This article was translated from German.

Watch video 00:44

'I'm just crushed' - Reactions to Justice Ginsburg' death