Filling RBG's Shoes: If Only "The West Wing" Was Reality TV

by Julie Graber | on 23 Sep 2020

It’s times like these that I wish The West Wing was reality TV. 

If that were the case, we’d be in the midst of season 5, episode 17, one of my all-time favorites: "The Supremes."

The scenario is familiar, especially at the rate we've been going recently. A Supreme Court Justice dies and DC is in a free fall.

In this case, the justice is a conservative, creating a huge window of opportunity for a liberal president. Or a huge challenge in trying to find a candidate with progressive values who can win approval with a conservative Senate.

Potential candidates are brought in for interviews, although some for show rather than serious consideration. In most cases the interactions are mundane (some bordering on the absurd). With a few, however the conversations begin to hint at the level of thinking and the kind of brilliance one would hope to find in Supreme Court nominees. 

Is the process political? Of course. But it is also a process that takes into consideration the broad ranges of values held across America instead of the extreme notions of a chosen few. It’s a process aimed at adding to the court the calibre of a legal mind worthy of replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, not a specific political viewpoint. It’s a process reflecting an understanding of the power entrusted in a group of nine individuals to protect our rights and guarantee justice for everyone, not at trip through the sordid details of the nominee's memory lane.

In the end (spoiler alert), the Bartlet Administration finds a way to bring diverse political viewpoints together and make history with the nomination of two justices, including a woman to fill the role of Chief Justice. (Goosebump moment.)

I realized today, with the lifetime appointment of the justices, that a woman serving as Chief Justice is a reality I probably won’t live to see. 

The rest - a Supreme Court selection process reflecting the gravity of the situation, a respect for all viewpoints, with the dignity befitting the institution - I'm guessing that will remain the stuff of fiction as well.

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