Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, Democrat of New York, lamented that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had spent her final days preoccupied by the “earth-shattering” political significance of her own death, criticized what she called the Senate majority leader’s ability to “manipulate the rules,” and urged Joseph R. Biden Jr. not to put out his own potential list of nominees for the Supreme Court vacancy at this moment.
In an interview Saturday in her Bronx campaign office, the congresswoman, who sought to galvanize Democrats in response to the news in a live broadcast on Instagram late Friday, praised Justice Ginsburg’s choices, citing both her dissents and her elaborate collars.
“Growing up as a woman in America, you’re always on the lookout for anyone who’s made it, regardless of shared philosophy,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “That’s how rare achieving such heights as she did is for a woman in our country, especially at the time that she achieved it.”
She continued: “It’s not just the fact that she’s a woman who served on our highest court, or the first Jewish woman to serve on our highest court. But it’s how she served. It’s the dissents that she wrote. Even it’s the style in which she did that. Wearing these big, bold collars is not just a sartorial decision. It is a visual communication to women across the country to say: take up space. And when you are in this space, you don’t have to occupy this space in the way that every man before you did. You can be the first, and you can be brazen, as you are the first.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said the fact that the death of a single, important individual could set off the political furor that it had raised “serious questions about the state of democracy in the United States.”
“We have nine unelected Supreme Court justices, and they have lifetime terms, and the majority leader, any given majority leader in the Senate, can manipulate rules and leverage their position of power to deny even a president the ability to appoint a justice,” she said. “I think one of the things that it prompts a lot of people to do is actually question how democratic many of our institutions are.”
“We are in a very, very scary place, and that is why her passing was just so earth-shattering, not just to millions of people but to herself,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez added, referencing the fact that days before her death, Justice Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter saying that her “most fervent wish” was that she wouldn’t be replaced “until a new president is installed.”
“My mind keeps going back to how her final moments were preoccupied with that, not taking stock,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “That took away, fundamentally, from her ability to more fully enjoy her life, her accomplishments, her family and her friends — because our democracy is so imperiled.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez described Mr. Trump’s decision to release a list of potential nominees for the court vacancy as a political calculation aimed purely at turning out voters. “On his list are individuals like Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz — Tom Cotton famously supporting bringing in the military to potentially endanger the lives of people exercising their first amendment rights. This is incredibly scary, that that kind of perspective could replace a vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
The congresswoman said she didn’t think that Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, ought to employ the same tactic and release his own list of potential nominees, as Mr. Trump has been urging.
“I think that Democratic voters, right now, it’s less about motivating people around a specific individual to be named to that court,” she said. “I think we are highly motivated about just making sure that vacancy is protected and preserved for the next president. I don’t think releasing a list of names really adds to that, and in fact, I think it could risk demoralizing and dividing our party.
“Right now, the costs outweigh the benefits,” she added. “But as events develop, the calculus could change.”