Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama and the Supremes III

I am glad that BHO selected Sonia Sotomayor. I guessed early on that he would do so. I like the idea that a Justice on the SCOTUS should have empathy, intellectual heft and a respect for the Constitution (check out Jeffrey Toobin's analysis of Chief Justice Roberts to learn about a person I see as far from a person BHO would consider for the SCOTUS).

And it will be interesting to see if conservatives will go down the path that someone whose race, ethnicity or gender is a problem (since BHO's pick will not be a conservative, in which case those aforementioned qualities aren't as important, as long as a conservative ideology is held) with regard to being a good judge. I also wonder if they will step into the quagmire of arguing that somehow someone like Sotomayor cannot be the "best qualified," because her demographics "automatically" render her qualifications suspect.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how the GOP and the broader Hispanic community will do this dance. Politically, it will be quite difficult to go after Sotomayor with ideological guns blazing, and being able to reach out with real success to Hispanic communities (unless there is a major revelation that is crippling to her nomination).


Scott said...

One of the things that has fascinated me about Barack Obama from the beginning is the complex mix of idealist and hardball political strategist. The nomination of Sotomayor is a perfect illustration of the two sides of Obama's mind working at the same time, and it's the political strategy of the nomination that strikes me as the most interesting.

John McCain lost at least in large part because he felt he had to pander to the hard-right base of the GOP (the Palin choice is the best of many examples), but the more he tried to solidify that base, the more distant he made himself from the mainstream--the majority--of the American electorate.

So now Obama has presented the GOP with the perfect opportunity to damage itself further. If they continue to pander to the hard-right, if they oppose Sotomayor and portray this first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee as a "liberal activist" they may please that 20-something percent of the population the still calls itself "Republican," but at the same time they can forever kiss goodbye Colorado, New Mexico, Florida and probably even Arizona.

I can almost hear GOP teeth grinding now...the muttered "Curses! Foiled again!" Hehe.

Anonymous said...

I recommend reading "More Than One Way to Diversify the Supreme Court Beyond Race and Gender, Today's Justices are Homogenous" By Robert Barnes, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, May 26, 2009. If you want to see what the concerns are about Sotomayor you can read Will's recent column describing her slavish allegiance to identity politics. Or if you find Will to right-wing you can read the recent WP editorial or even Stuart Taylor's article in the National Journal, here: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/or_20090523_2724.php

Like everyone else in some ways I'm attracted to the idea of having a Latina on the court. At the same time, the Barnes piece I noted above points out that she is very conventional in other ways. Playing the race/gender game buys into the notion that those factors are the determining elements in one's world view—not her status as a judge, not her experiences, not even her humanity. She is simply a Hispanic woman—good, versus a white man, bad. Given Obama's emphasis on being practical, I was hoping for someone from a more unconventional professional background--someone with executive experience or experience in elected office. In many ways she is a cookie-cutter liberal who believes that race and gender matter most and even rejects the notion of impartiality. The white male patriarchy is oppressing everyone. It will be a replay of the worst of the 1990s all over again.

Politically speaking, the Rs will express concern, but unless there is a hidden bombshell she'll be confirmed without much of a fight.

The only silver lining is that it might spark interest in the US's overseas territories. If Puerto Rico gets a seat on the Court, when will it be Guam's turn?

Anonymous said...

Scott (like many liberals I imagine) doesn't seem to be interested in how Sotomayor may change the law or impact the notion of justice, but simply sees the nomination as a way to hurt Republicans. Isn't it that kind of vindictive partisan "point scoring" that Obama was suppose to change?

Scott said...

Anon, I'm guilty as charged.
Well...half guilty.

In fact I am, "...interested in how Sotomayor may change the law or impact the notion of justice," but yeah, I admit that I'm also taking some pleasure in seeing the right squirm. Guilty.

But when I hear Newt and Boss Rush now foaming at the mouth that Sotomayor is a "RACIST!"...well, I don't feel too guilty about it.