Hilzoy explores Obama’s recent bit of political aikido, and gets right down to the heart of things:
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.
She’s right. We should.
Incidentally, if you find yourself debating a snookered Independent or one of those rare Cons who can actually process facts and might possibly let go of Faux News-style talking points, Hilzoy had a piece up linking to SCOTUS blog, where Tom Goldstein combed through Sotomayor’s opinions and managed to thoroughly maim, annihilate, and otherwise debunk the current right wing blather about how her race means she’ll toss out the law and side with the icky brown people. Upshot:
Other than Ricci, Judge Sotomayor has decided 96 race-related cases while on the court of appeals.
Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent’s point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case. So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1.
Good luck hammering that through their thick skulls.