Monday would have been the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 88th birthday. Which meant a lot of tributes from the left side of the political spectrum. The California legislature’s concurrent resolution is a good example:
This measure would declare that the Legislature honors the life and legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and proclaims March 15, 2021, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Day, a day of remembrance and education to ensure that all Californians always honor and remember a vibrant guardian of equality for all.
I can’t help but feel really conflicted about all of these tributes, though. Not because they’re inaccurate—Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazing fighter for women’s rights whose accomplishments are worth celebrating! But I can’t help but see them as a continuation of the last several years of putting the Justice on a pedestal. It’s always dangerous to make even very admirable public figures into unquestionable heroes, especially while they remain in positions of responsibility, and it didn’t escape my notice that the “Notorious R.B.G.” memes and similar propaganda really kicked into high gear starting in 2013 and 2014. Those years being, as it would turn out, the last chance Ginsburg had to retire and be replaced with an ideologically congenial successor.
Looking through the resolution I linked above, it didn’t escape my notice that the last majority opinion referenced therein was in 1999. I’ve been following the Supreme Court since I was in eighth grade, and that’s before my time. Most of the really solid Ginsburg decisions I’ve seen handed down in real time have been dissents, and while quite a few of them were unanswerably brilliant, they’re not the law of the land. (A lot of people seemed to get warm and fuzzy feelings about Ginsburg dissents, which is bizarre to me given how they tended to accompany the country getting fucked over by the majority.) I had some hope that Ginsburg would get some majority opinions to go out on in 2016, but obviously Sen. Mitch McConnell blocked that. So the only hope of those dissents getting adopted by the Supreme Court rests on control of the Court flipping in the future. And unfortunately for us, by failing to retire in 2014 Justice Ginsburg ensured that that’s probably only going to happen in my lifetime if Democrats add four seats to the Court, or if Democrats hold the White House and Senate concurrently for over a decade, or if, say, Justices Alito and Kavanaugh get in a freak mutual golfing accident. Don’t hold your breath.
I don’t think it’s fair to have somebody’s worst decision overshadow an otherwise exemplary life and career. But life isn’t fair. And at the very least, I feel that it’s dishonest to discuss Ginsburg’s legacy without acknowledging that her replacement was Amy Coney Barrett, and it didn’t have to be, and we, the living, have to live with that for the next few decades. Hopefully Justice Breyer will avoid the same mistake.
American Institute of Parliamentarians. The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure. McGraw-Hill, 2012. Trade paperback, first thus. The successor to the Sturgis Code and simpler than Robert’s, this is the procedure used by Sunnyvale boards and commissions.
Text of Motions Relating to the Summit High School Use Permit
Hendricks motion: That (1) the item be continued to April 23, (2) staff and the applicant create a solution that will impose penalties for inappropriate parking behavior and define the appropriate thresholds, (3) staff and the applicant look at use permit renewal at a staff level in five years, and (4) staff to figure what mechanisms (if possible) to limit the discussion to just the new information being brought forward as much as legally possible.
Melton substitute motion: That the project is approved with changes: (1) the use permit is valid for five years, (2) in conformance with the findings for the parking issue, condition of approval that the applicant come up with a certain amount of parking at an alternate site within 1 mile; enough parking to get rid of the mechanical lift parking structure, and (3) a condition of approval for the 18 front parking spaces to be available to the public for non-essential hour usage with the liability to be the responsibility of the property owner.
Amendments to the City Council Regular Meeting Calendar: Strike the “tentative” language for March 5 and change December 17 to December 10.
Additional appointments to external IGR agencies: Councilmember Smith to the Grand Boulevard Initiative Task Force, Alternate; Councilmember Hendricks to the El Camino Real Rapid Transit Policy Advisory Board (PAB).
Additional appointment made by an outside agency: Councilmember Smith to the Santa Clara County Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission.
It’s always fun on Election Night to see the networks balancing the urge to be first in calling a winner with the need to be sufficiently cautious and not miscall. In 2000, the former prevailed with the infamous premature Florida calls. In 2002, the networks overcorrected, taking nearly an hour to call a Virginia Senate race with no Democratic candidate. Since then, we’ve been moving back to faster calls.
This year the most notable gaffe was in a southern New Mexico House race, which networks called for Yvette Herrell (R) before realizing that there were about six thousand outstanding ballots in Doña Ana County. When counted, these (unsurprisingly) put Xochita Torres Small (D) over the top. Another error occurred in the Arizona Secretary of State race, which appears to be a case of underestimating just how Democratic the late-counted vote in Arizona was. Both California and Arizona take a while to count all of their votes, and the votes that get counted on Election Night tend to be more Republican by quite a few percentage points than the remainder.
I get frustrated when I hear people refer to calls—either by the networks or the usually-more-cautious AP—as “official”. From a legal perspective, election results are only official when certified, which can take anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the state. Projected winners are just that, a projection that when all of the votes are counted, X will win. (And on Election Night, we sometimes saw TV commentators committing the even greater sin of deeming an early Republican lead in the Montana Senate race meaningful without noting that the biggest counties yet to report were consistently Democratic.)
Of course, waiting for states to finish counting prevents us from having instant hot takes about what the election means. Hell, why wait for the West to even start reporting when you can extrapolate based on early returns from the rest of the country? (Democrats, of course, ended up gaining 10-12 House seats and 2 Senate seats just in Western states.)
Election projections are fun. But as a news consumer, be smart about how you interpret them.
I don’t have a ballot today, but these are the biggest races I’m watching.
Maine Question 2
New Jersey Governor
DEM Gain. Murphy elected.
New York, NY Mayor
DEM Hold. DeBlasio re-elected.
Utah Congressional District 3
GOP Hold. Curtis elected.
DEM Hold. Northam elected.
Washington Senate, District 45
Kirkland, Redmond, & Sammamish
DEM Gain. Dhingra elected.
The Washington legislative seat is principally important because gaining it also gives Democrats control of the Washington Senate (and full control of the Washington state government).
I’m also going to try to keep an eye on Virginia’s lieutenant governor and attorney general races, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court elections, and the aggregate change in the Virginia House of Delegates, as well as any other interesting state or local results that come in.