What RBG and Scalia can teach us

February 17th, 2016



In all my years spent as a self-proclaimed political nerd, I have never understood people’s frustration and annoyance with presidential campaigns. That is, of course, until now.


In the midst of choosing the woman or man who will run our country, we have reduced a process that used to be among the noblest of pursuits to a petty shouting match laced with brutal disrespect. To make matters worse, callow junior representatives attack our current president in epic irreverent proportions, worse than our nation has ever yet seen.


For those of you who don’t live and breathe political science (don’t worry, most don’t), it hasn’t always been this ugly. Republican President Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, the staunch democratic Speaker of the House at the time, were notorious frenemies. Although they were deeply divided on a majority of issues, they knew when to pause and get things done for the good of the country. If you Google both of their names at once, all that pops up is the two of them laughing hysterically during the State of the Union.


I pursued political science because I knew that people were capable of this kind of honest public service. It was the way things should be.


With a current political climate that seems so contrary to Ronnie and Tip amity, it is difficult to imagine two people being able to put aside ideological differences for the sake of friendship and respect. Leave it to the nation’s highest court to prove us wrong.


If you know me, you know that I am absolutely obsessed with all things related to the Supreme Court. More specifically, I have a bit of an intellectual crush on her majesty, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The tiny lean, mean legal machine has spent her 82 years on earth thus far championing women’s and civil rights, along with being a total bad you-know-what.


Deemed by some as the liberal matriarch of the United States Supreme Court, it is difficult for some to imagine that her absolute, self-proclaimed “best buddy” was Justice Antonin Scalia, the most outspoken conservative justice who recently passed away last weekend.


The legal mastermind spent his time working on almost opposite legal matters than RBG, which was what made the duo so dynamic. Reflecting on the life of Justice Scalia, Ginsburg said, “We are different, we are one, different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies.


“Justice Scalia’s dissents nailed all [my opinion’s] weak spots—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh,” Ginsburg said.


Despite their differences, their friendship was among the truest of kinds. They were known to go to the opera together, run errands together, go on vacations to France and India with each other’s families and spend New Year’s Eve in the company of one another. Their relationship was both inspiring and comforting in a world that seemed, and still seems, deeply divided.


In the wake of Scalia’s recent death, I can’t help but think of my idol, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the example of masterful politics she and Scalia were.


Following a week of debates and presidential fanfare that included overwhelming amounts of hateful actions, I thought that I had finally had enough. In the peak of the insanity, it was as if the late Justice Antonin Scalia left the earth to teach us a lesson.


While he and Ruth were still living happily here on earth, Scalia said, “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleague about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete’s sake.” Scalia’s words have never held so much meaning. In his absence, let’s follow his lead.