It wasn’t all that long ago that politicians with opposite ideologies in Washington D.C. acted like politicians and were able to debate hot-button topics without resorting to personal attacks and hatred.
While that school of politicking feels almost completely lost, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is one of the few left on the Hill who remembers how it used to be, adding that he’s “never raised a voice in anger,” while saying his conservative colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, is a “very, very decent person,” according to SCOTUSblog.
Breyer’s encouraging words came about during a recent conversation he had with Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center, in front of a group of students on a live Zoom call. Breyer told the students that if enough people demand it, politicians can get back to how it used to be.
Breyer also spoke about the current state of “stressed” politics, with the middle school and high school students in attendance likely having grown up in the most intensely divided political climate in modern American history.
The 82-year-old justice went on to admit that the American political system is still an experiment, given its relatively young age, but told the students that it’s “your job” to make sure it continues to work in the future.
Rosen challenged Breyer by commenting that many believe the American system is “broken,” but the SCOTUS justice said he remains “basically optimistic,” adding that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who he used to work for, always said that the country “swings” but eventually rights itself. Reaching across the political aisle is key, Breyer said, for politicians to find common ground.
Breyer also touched on his long-held friendship with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even admitting that he recently asked one of his clerks to “see what Ruth thinks” about a case he was working on. “I miss her,” Breyer said.
Since President Joe Biden took office, Breyer has faced intense pressure from those within his own party to retire and allow the new president to pick a younger (and likely much more liberal) successor.
Breyer, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, has served on the high court for more than two decades and seemingly plans to continue on, as he has remained silent about his future career plans thus far.