Friday, July 17, 2009

Thoughts on Ricci Testimony

Frank Ricci testified in congress yesterday for a few minutes at the behest of the judiciary committee’s Republicans. I thought he was eloquent and measured during his time. The important question though, is what effect will his remarks have on the confirmation hearings?

He won’t derail Sotomayor’s confirmation. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) said himself that she’d be confirmed barring some meltdown. No such meltdown has occurred in the hearings. The Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate. That means the Republicans can’t filibuster unless a Democrat joins them (which won’t happen).

What this might do is spark a societal conversation about affirmative action. No one would argue that Ricci isn’t a sympathetic figure. At a time when we have a black President, seeing Ricci refused a promotion when New Haven summarily threw out the test results could cause an outcry among whites who feel that it’s time for affirmative action to end. It could also cause some whites who were on the fence to decide that affirmative action is unjust.

I could see Ricci becoming a conservative poster boy for opposition to affirmative action. Talk show radio and conservative candidates will invoke him when arguing against racial preferences. I think that is why Republicans really called him to testify. He has no legal expertise, and seems poorly situated to comment on Sotomayor’s legal abilities. They wanted him to talk about the injustice of affirmative action. So in short, I think Ricci did more harm to affirmative action than he did to Sotomayor’s nomination.

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