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Be Careful What You Gripe For

May 28, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor has already been called Che Guevara, Harriet Miers, and a racist (!), but to me she seems more like Sandra Day O’Connor, albeit more favorable to minority groups (in that she won’t vote against them 39-2).  She goes out of her way to be moderate, objective, justify potentially controversial opinions, and comes off as a reasonable person looking to weigh all sides of an issue.

From the cases I’ve perused with my layman’s knowledge, she doesn’t have an overwhelmingly liberal judicial philosophy.  Though we don’t have much idea how she will rule on civil liberties issues, Roe v. Wade, or any other vestiges of the culture wars, she seems like a pretty good pick from the research I’ve done. Which is to say, Wikipedia and the Economist.

Anyways, something that bothers me about the way conservatives and the media are framing this nomination is the constant reference to ‘identity politics’ and affirmative action. The woman has essentially the same qualifications as Samuel Alito (Princeton undergraduate, Yale Law School, former prosecutor), a white man whose solidly conservative views were held as off-limits to questioning by the Beltway-establishment due to his prestigious education and experience as a Court of Appeals judge.

This is going to backfire badly for whatever half-cocked agenda the Rush Limbaughs and Michael Savages are pushing right now.  White culture warriors will find out that Latinos will remember the way the obviously qualified members of their community were treated like second-rate nobodies because of the color of their skin. There will be a day when whites are the minority in places like Texas and New Mexico.  The current nasty tone will ensure that in that future, obviously qualified white men will have their accomplishments cheapened and reputations tarnished by claims of ‘identity politics,’ picked by Hispanic politicians to ‘shore up the white vote.’

The Sotomayor selection could have been a chance to move beyond this kind of language.  Conservatives could be turning the tables, championing her as an example of a woman who can succeed without the affirmative action policies they oppose, a living example that disadvantaged minorities can make it if they are dedicated, work hard, and rise through the ranks just like everyone else.

Certainly it is legitimate to oppose her on her judicial record (she upheld a ban on nunchakus, there goes the Ninja Caucus), if you thought that was fair game for Roberts or Alito.  But from my perspective, the only people playing identity politics are the ones griping about it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2009 5:36 am

    “White culture warriors will find out that Latinos will remember the way the obviously qualified members of their community were treated like second-rate nobodies because of the color of their skin.”

    How about Miguel Estrada?

    • May 29, 2009 8:17 am

      Miguel Estrada is a fair counter-point.

      However, the Democrats opposed him not because he was a ‘second-rate nobody,’ but because he had never served as a judge before and refused to release documents from his service as assistant to the Solicitor General. A pretty weak reason (gotta start sometime), but as far as I know they didn’t publicly claim the reason they opposed him was because he was chosen only on the basis of his skin color. I don’t believe, at least, that they cried that identity politics were behind Estrada’s nomination, even if they privately believed it. That was my point.

      That being said, my post was not meant to be read as a Democratic, partisan defense. It was just an observation as a political outsider. I am not registered with either party, therefore I am not really concerned with the “but they did it too!” because I believe both national parties are equally ideologically bankrupt. I will admit the GOP has an edge in tone-deafness nowadays, though.

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