While it may feel like the United States is in a troubling and chaotic political moment, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn’t think it’s inescapable.
In an interview broadcast on BBC Newsnight on Thursday, Ginsburg shied away from addressing Donald Trump’s presidency but struck a hopeful tone about some of the issues his administration has divisive stances on, including immigration, women’s rights and the press.
“I am optimistic in the long run,” she said. “There was a great man who once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back.”
[W]e are not experiencing the best times, but there is reason to hope that that we will see a better day." Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“[T]here’s hope in seeing how the public is reacting to it,” she said. “The Women’s March ― I’ve never seen such a demonstration, both the numbers and the rapport of the people in that crowd. There was no violence; it was orderly. So yes, we are not experiencing the best times, but there is reason to hope that that we will see a better day.”
Ginsburg noted that the U.S. has emerged from dark chapters in its history, like the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“That was a dreadful mistake,” she said. “It took a long time for the United States to realize how dreadful it was. But ultimately the president acknowledged that there was no reason to intern people of Japanese ancestry and Congress passed a bill providing compensation for the people who were interned or their survivors.”
And the media is instrumental in holding the government accountable, she said.
“Think of what the press has done in the United States,” she said. “[The Watergate scandal] might never have come out if we didn’t have the free press that we do.”
The 83-year-old is optimistic about her own future on the Supreme Court, too.
“At my age you have to take it year by year. I know I’m OK. What will be next year?” she said.
“I’m hopeful however, because my most senior colleague ― the one who most recently retired, Justice John Paul Stevens ― stepped down at age 90. So I have a way to go.”