Monday, July 13, 2009

Who Knew Sotomayor Would be So Divisive?

It turns out that Sonia Sotomayor is one of the most divisive SCOTUS nominees in recent memory. A CNN poll found that 47% of Americans want to see her confirmed, while 40% are oppose her confirmation, and 13% are uncertain of their views. Around two out of three Republicans oppose her.

By contrast, only 32% of Republicans opposed the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993; in 2005, only 35% of Democrats opposed John Roberts while 46% opposed Samuel Alito in 2006.

Why all the opposition to Sotomayor from Republicans? I think it has something to do with race. And by that I don’t mean that Republicans are racist or hate Latinos. Rather, racial issues have sullied Sotomayor’s image with Republicans. There are two reasons that quickly come to mind why Republicans are uncomfortable with Sotomayor.

First, there was Sotomayor’s remark that “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” This is being portrayed in conservative circles as evidence of animosity to whites. Furthermore, conservatives are furious that a white man could not get away with saying such a thing. So Sotomayor in this instance is a whipping boy for political correctness.

Second is Sotomayor’s decision in the now-famous Ricci case. Ricci was a white firefighter who sued for reverse discrimination when the New Haven fire department threw out test results to decide who would be promoted when no blacks passed. Sotomayor was overruled this past term by the Supreme Court 5-4. Republicans tend to oppose affirmative action, and so it’s no surprise that they would oppose someone who voted to uphold it.

None of this means Sotomayor won’t get confirmed. She will. The Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate, enough to shut down a Republican filibuster. I don’t see any Democrats voting to allow a filibuster at this point. And I have my doubts as to whether the Republicans will filibuster. They lost badly in 2008, in part because of a poor showing with Latino voters. Filibustering a highly qualified woman who would be the first Latina on the court in US history is not the best way to improve with these voters.

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