Bob Franken




The October surprise happened in September, but it was certainly a jarring surprise. Normally, in a presidential race it will be engineered by supporters of one candidate against the other. But unless we learn differently, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came when her health finally collapsed after years of fighting off cancers. Shortly before she succumbed, she dictated a statement:
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
But in the ways of Washington, the beauty of all the Twitter tributes immediately gave way to ugly politics. A vicious battle is assured as President Donald Trump is locked in a battle with his opponent, with a chance that he will lose; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, is locked in a re-election battle with a chance that he will lose.
It I’s even feasible that Joe Biden and the Democrats will take over the White House and the Senate. So the GOP, in power now, is scrambling to ram a conservative justice through the “advice and consent” ritual and replace Ginsburg, a liberal legend who had become a longtime battler for women’s rights. Her dissents and written opinions were so majestic that she had become a champion of the younger set, the “Notorious RBG.”
If they are successful, the high court would end up with a 7 to 2 majority for decades to come that would be able to reverse so much of the progressive agenda that has grown into reality in recent generations, including the right to get an abortion.
The bitter absurdity is that the passing of the most liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has altered the election campaign. It allows Donald Trump, as opposite as one person can be from Ginsburg, an opportunity to look presidential, to distract from his dismal performance on the coronavirus, which has left 200,000 dead, and his demagogic pandering to racists that antagonizes so many voters of every color.
Trump has been insulting women to the extent that so many, even conservative women, view him as an obvious misogynist. However, many are even more offended by abortion. So they may see the placement of a conservative anti-abortion justice as an appropriate replacement for the pro women’s rights, pro Roe v. Wade Ruth Bader Ginsburg, enhancing the chances to prohibit a procedure they view as murder.

As always, the Ginsburg death political scenarios are chaotic, all over the map. On the one hand it allows Donald Trump to present himself as a statesman instead of the caricature of the hated, hateful buffoon to which so many million Americans see. But can the Trumpster hold back on his compulsion to say or tweet something outrageous?
And what about the contest for control of the Senate. Will endangered Republican members, who are fighting close battles for re-election, including McConnell himself, be willing to play along with McConnell’s and Trump’s strategy to force through a replacement? Democrats promise an all out battle against that. Will that help or hurt them? And will more GOP gadflies, help the Democrats conjure up the four votes they need to thwart the hurry-up plan?
How will Joe Biden handle this unexpected development, and how will Kamala Harris deal with it? She’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the control of Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican who is fighting for his political life back in his home state of South Carolina.
The September surprise of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death will have an enormous impact on the campaign, and it’s not overstating it to say that it will affect the future of this country. Obviously it might not be in the direction Ginsberg would prefer after a lifetime of leading the fight for human rights.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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