Emotion Denied

Whatever they think about Judge Sonia Sotomayor, conservatives should know there’s nothing they can do to stop her confirmation.

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Newt Gingrich calls Sotomayor a “racist” for suggesting that “a wise Latina” might offer a beneficial judicial perspective in certain cases.  But he’s not actually saying he thinks she’s a racist. He’s saying she can’t be his intellectual equal unless and until she agrees that she should substitute his life experience for hers—because, well, she’s just a Latina.

Pat Buchanan insists Sotomayor is an “affirmative action” pick, but he’s got it wrong, too. Maybe he’s confusing her with Justice Clarence Thomas, whose pre-SCOTUS resume was a lot thinner, but who was chosen anyway to fill the high court’s “black” seat vacated by the late Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Sotomayor has every credential Obama could ask for in a justice and as a bonus—she’s Latina. So why not make history with her nomination? You can bet that if the court had six Latinas, Ginsburg and Thomas, Obama would’ve nominated a white guy instead.

Republicans are so accustomed to arguing that people of color are undeserving or inferior that when a Latina was nominated, they looked harder at her surname than her qualifications.

They’ve even invited New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci to testify against Sotomayor at her hearing—two weeks after winning his discrimination case in the Supreme Court that overturned the decision of a 2nd circuit court panel that included Sotomayor. As a follow-up, maybe they can get the International Association of Firefighters to invite President Obama to lead a seminar on new techniques for pulling people out of burning buildings.

For all that the Senate Republicans think they know about Sotomayor, it hasn’t occurred to them that if she had been on the high court when Ricci was decided, there’s a chance that she would have voted with the majority. But they don’t like her, so they’ll focus on trying to tear her down, not on her record.

But they can’t stop her now, and in the process of putting up a fight to oppose a nominee that they have no other way to criticize, Sotomayor’s critics will wind up exposing themselves for what they are: not advocates for blind justice, but pitchmen for the old world order.

Sonia won’t fall for it.

Look for “a wise Latina” to keep her head down, her answers tight and her powder dry. Pretty soon they’ll be saying, “Here comes the judge,” or maybe, “Ya viene la justicia.”

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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