Leaning to the Left

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Posts Tagged ‘nomination’

Sotomayor and the Unfounded Objections of the Right

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 27, 2009

Yesterday President Obama announced his pick for the new Supreme Court justice, and as expected the Right has wasted no time in attacking the pick of Judge Sotomayor.  Charges brought against this justice by conservative pundits have ranged from activism to radicalism to liberalism to bullying to racism to being an affirmative action pick.  None of these charges should really be that surprising as almost all the charges were brought out before any pick was actually decided.  Even though most all of these charges were to be expected, it still is important to see if there is any merit to them.

First, the charge of being an “activist judge”, or a justice that will use their role to create policy.  Now I am not so sure that this charge carries any water, but for the sake of argument let us pretend that it does.  Why is that automatically a bad thing?  One need only look so far as the Supreme Court decision that decided that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional to see that sometimes the Supreme Court does create policy, and sometimes those policies that are created are not a bad thing.  So long as the justice works to uphold the constitution it shouldn’t automatically be called activism simply because one does not agree with the decision.

Another charge is that she is a radical, which goes along with charges that she is a liberal.  A quick examination of Sotomayor reveals that she is anything but a radical or a complete liberal.  For example, a White House talking point is the fact that “In cases where Sotomayor and at least one judge appointed by a Republican president were on the three-judge panel, Sotomayor and the Republican appointee(s) agreed on the outcome 95% of the time”.  Perhaps that does make her a radical liberal, but only by virtue of her radicalness being that she agrees with conservatives more than liberals.  Sotomayor was also a corporate lawyer at one point, and also ruled against plaintiffs seeking damages in the crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of New York, neither of which sound like the bonafides of a liberal radical.

Another charge is that she is a bully on the bench, she is too aggressive in other words.  Now maybe she is aggressive, maybe she does push hard to get her point across, but it is hard to believe that this charge has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman.  These charges are never leveled against a male justice by the Right, even in the case of Justice Antonin “Go fuck yourself” Scalia.  It is only when a woman shows aggression and the desire to speak her mind that she is thought of as pushy, if it is a man then they are just being assertive.  When will we be able to get past this idea that woman should just sit idly by and only speak when spoken to?  The Right should either condemn any justice they see as pushy and bossy, or sit down and be quiet if they can only level those charges against women.

Judge Sotomayor has also been referred to as an affirmative action pick by the likes of Pat Buchanon, amongst others.  Let’s see, she was valedictorian of her high school, graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, was the editor of the Yale Law Review, and would bring more federal judicial experience to the Court than any other justice in the past 100 years.  Yep, I would definitely say that she is unqualified.  This charge is obviously so ridiculous it barely deserves a response, and yet the charge is out there and being repeated.  Chalk this one up to old white men getting upset that Obama would dare to pick a qualified Hispanic woman.

The last charge, and the stickiest, is the charge that she is racist.  This stems from a speech she gave in 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, in which she said “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.”  Sounds pretty bad right?  I admit it does, until you take the time to actually read the speech she gave.  Sotomayor was referring to the problem of minority and female judge’s not being well represented in courts, which can cause rulings that come about that do not see the seriousness of the issues before a court.  Sotomayor went on to say, in the next sentence, “Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case.”  Sotomayor was essentially saying that women and minorities have a better hold on the challenges of being a woman and a minority than a white male.  This isn’t racism, it is just common sense.  Only someone completely ignorant of human nature would assume this to be untrue. 

The nomination of Sotomayor is not a crushing blow for conservatives, nor is it a victory for liberals.  Sotomayor was first nominated to a federal position by that great liberal leader President George H.W. Bush.  She has been twice confirmed by a Republican Congress.  She has not changed since those days.  These charges are nothing more than bluster from the Right that would object to anyone nominated by Obama, no matter the pick or qualifications.  It is time for the Right to stop playing politics and objecting to every single thing that Obama does without qualification.

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