They Can’t Help Themselves
Even by Republican standards, the Sotomayor meltdown is pretty impressive. Tom Tancredo calls La Raza, which is a pretty ordinary advocacy group, “a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.” Newt Gingrich writes that we cannot accept Sotomayor’s rather anodyne remarks about experience being helpful in judging “if Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything”, which would surely be news to all the African-Americans who are not presently enslaved.
Rush Limbaugh compares Sotomayor to David Duke. Michael Goldfarb and John Derbyshire’s readers are going on about the vast privileges enjoyed by Puerto Ricans who grow up poor in the projects. The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes thinks her summa doesn’t mean much, since “there’s some schools and maybe Princeton’s not one of them, where if you don’t get Summa Cum Laude then or some kind of Cum Laude, you then, you’re a D+ student.” (For the record, when I was there, Princeton gave summas to around 5% of its students.)
But really, nothing quite compares to G. Gordon Liddy saying not just that she is a member of La Raza, “which means in illegal alien, “the race””, but this:
“Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.”
(Yes, of course I know that Quetzalcoatl is an Aztec God, and Aztlan is the mythical home of the Aztecs, and Aztecs are Mexican, and Sonia Sotomayor is Puerto Rican. But I’m channeling G. Gordon Liddy’s nightmares here, and do you think he knows the difference?)
Seriously: Obama is a serious student of the civil rights movement, which in turn drew a lot of inspiration from Gandhi. Both Gandhi and the Civil Rights movement made brilliant use of the following method: you do something right, which you suspect might lead your opponents to do something wrong. If you are right about them, they discredit themselves, without your having to lift a finger. If you’re wrong, you are pleasantly surprised. But you do not have to do anything wrong or underhanded yourself, nor do you in any way have to hope that your opponents are bad people.
That’s what he’s doing now. He has chosen a judge who is by any standard exceptionally qualified, and who has, in addition, a fairly conservative judicial temperament. She sticks close to the law; she follows precedent; having read several of her opinions, if I have any criticism of her, it’s that not seen much evidence of an overarching judicial philosophy other than restraint. (To be clear: if a judge has to lack something, I’d rather it be an overarching philosophy than devotion to the law as written. But I’d rather have both.)
But she is also a Puerto Rican woman. If the Republican Party were led by sane and decent people, this would not matter. But they aren’t. As a result, they seem to be unable to see anything about her besides her ethnicity and her gender. The idea that she must be a practitioner of identity politics, a person whose every success is due to preferential treatment, etc., is apparently one they absolutely cannot resist.
All Obama had to do was nominate an excellent justice, and all that is made plain.
And I hate it. I want to have a reasonable opposition party. I also don’t want people of color, and especially kids, to have to listen to all this bigotry. We should be better than this.