Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday said that she wished she “could wave a magic wand” to reduce partisanship in Washington, D.C.
“I wish there were a way I could wave a magic wand and put it back when people were respectful of each other, and the Congress was working for the good of the country and not just along party lines,” Ginsburg said during an event at Stanford University.
“Someday there will be great people, great elected representatives who will say, ‘Enough of this nonsense. Let’s be the kind of legislature the United States should have,’” she added. “I hope that day will come when I’m still alive.”
Students crowded the university’s iconic Memorial Church to hear Ginsburg at the annual Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life.
While discussing her career, Ginsburg noted that she had support from both parties when she became the second woman on the Supreme Court in 1993. One of her most prominent advocates was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
“I think today, he wouldn’t touch me with a 10-foot pole,” she quipped on Monday.
On Monday, Ginsburg, 83, did not comment on President Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch. But she said that as one of the court’s few liberal justices, she intends to continue serving for as long as possible, joking that the most important person in her life is her personal trainer.
Fearing that Trump would get another Supreme Court nomination, Ginsburg’s liberal supporters have taken an interest in her health, insisting she “eat more kale.”
One student at the event asked Ginsburg which justice she thought should eat more kale. She quickly answered “Anthony Kennedy,” her 80-year-old fellow justice who often casts a swing vote between the liberal and conservative wings.
On politics, Ginsburg, an outspoken opponent of Trump, did not directly mention the president. But a student’s question about what she’d like to change in Washington alluded to his his victory over Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote.
“There are some things that I would like to change, one is the Electoral College, but that would require a constitutional amendment and amending our Constitution is powerfully hard to do,” she said.
She also called for abolishing the death penalty, which she morally opposes, but acknowledged that the Constitution permits capital punishment
“If I were queen, there would be no death penalty,” she said.
Ginsburg has often spoken of the “collegiality” of the Supreme Court, and frequently mentioned her friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, her ideological polar opposite on the court.
She told the audience that although the members of the court have deep philosophical differences, they work together and share mutual respect.
“Despite our strong disagreements on cardinal issues ― think for example, of controls on political campaign spending, access to the ballot, affirmative action, access to abortion, same-sex marriage ― we genuinely respect one another, even enjoy one another’s company,” she said. “Collegiality is crucial to the success of our mission. We could not do the job the Constitution assigns to us if we didn’t, to use one of Justice Scalia’s favorite expressions, ‘get over it.’”
Michael McLaughlin contributed reporting from Palo Alto, California.