Judge Jeffrey Sutton, one of my father’s former clerks, tells a story about visiting my father at the Supreme Court on what happened to be Justice Ginsburg’s birthday. My dad had bought his old friend two dozen roses for the occasion, and Judge Sutton started teasing him, joking that there was no point to a gift like that when Justice Ginsburg had never sided with him in an important 5-4 case.
My father replied, “Some things are more important than votes.”
The point of this story isn’t that my father or Justice Ginsburg changed their votes to please the other, or that they pulled any punches when writing differing opinions – indeed, they are both known for their strong dissents. The point is that they didn’t let those differing and deeply held convictions undermine their dear friendship.
This has already been one of the most difficult and divisive years in living memory; with Justice Ginsburg’s passing, it will become more so.
Reasonable people of good faith will disagree about important issues. You and your friends will likely hold very strong, very different opinions about what course our country should take and who should lead us there.
A healthy republic requires citizens to debate those issues forcefully and peacefully; a healthy society needs citizens to remember that political disagreement need not turn friends into enemies. My father and Justice Ginsburg mastered this balance. We’ll all need to do the same in the difficult months before us.