Tag: Sonia Sotomayor

Power Play

Perhaps you didn’t notice when a national political leader said that America was entering the “Decade of the Hispanic.”

You can be forgiven, because the speaker was Henry Cisneros, and he wasn’t talking about our current decade. He was talking about the 1980s.

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One Less Thing to Argue About

Ultimately, it was pretty anticlimactic. As we all know, Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed this week as the latest Supreme Court Justice. She took the oath of office today.

sotooath

She is the first Latina on the court, of course, and her success can’t help but be an inspiration to Hispanics, even to surly bloggers who think they’re above it all (ahem…).

Sotomayor was confirmed by a 68-31 vote, with all the Democrats and nine Republicans voting for her. That means about three-quarters of the GOP Senators said, “Never mind the uplifting story and impressive qualifications, I’m terrified she’s going to rule that we all have to speak Spanish.”

The newest justice will have plenty of time to prove whether she’s an intellectual jurist who exercises solid judgment, or if she’s a crazed left-wing agitator who empathizes all over the place.

Sane people should have little trouble guessing where she’ll land on that continuum.


Taking the Easy Way Out

As I mentioned in my previous post, my updates to the site may become more infrequent due to my upcoming move to California. It’s a lame excuse but a sincere one. So until I can be throughly witty, I’m going with short missives and videos, which is the blogger’s version of cutting and running.

Here is a clip of Stephen Colbert discussing Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing. It’s for everybody who thinks “neutral” is somehow equivalent with “white.”

And while we’re at it, check out the discussion at Stuff White People Do about this clip.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.852973&w=425&h=350&fv=autoPlay%3Dfalse]

more about “Taking the Easy Way Out“, posted with vodpod

Winning Hearts and Minds

In a recent post, I advised the Republican Party to tread lightly when challenging the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. As we know, the initial reaction of many conservatives had less to do with her judicial philosophy (which is a legitimate topic for debate) and more to do with her reputation as a fiery Latina.

Well, many conservatives heeded my advice (you’re welcome!). But to my surprise, a few continue to attack the woman for her unapologetic acknowledgement that she’s Hispanic. It seems as if several Republicans have their Latino-bashing setting on autopilot and can’t shut it off.

For example, Daily Kos points out that Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, brought up Sotomayor’s association with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Sessions claimed that the organization does not share an “American approach to matters” and has “taken some very shocking positions with respect to terrorism.”

I’m no expert on the PRLDEF. However, the organization apparently devotes its energy to voting and employment rights, education, housing, and other social issues that have a disproportionate impact on Latinos. I doubt that they’re chockablock with terrorists or have turned Sotomayor into a dynamite-wielding nut in judicial robes. Call it a wild guess.

And someone needs to inform Sessions that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and, as such, indeed share that fabled American approach to matters.

One would think that a political party on the ropes would recognize that it desperately needs to avoid alienating the fastest-growing demographic of voters (i.e., Latinos). Furthermore, one would assume that Republicans would look at their abysmal favorability rating among Hispanics – down to single digits, according to some polls – and say, “Let’s try not to look like xenophobes for once.”

But let’s be fair. Not all Republicans are tripping over themselves to proclaim hostility toward Hispanics. For example, this week, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina held a press conference to announce that he was positively bonkers over a Latina. Unfortunately for him, it turned out that the woman was not his wife, turning him into, as Jon Stewart pointed out, “just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxKg0jZ45H4&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

But should we let Sanford off the hook? After all, he may very well have been the powerless victim of the unstoppable, unquenchable Latin Lover. As I’ve written before, this archetype can take the form of an exotic beauty who beguiles the morally upright white male, who then comes to his senses and returns to his proper role as upstanding member of the nuclear family and majority culture.

At least that’s what Sanford is trying to do. In actuality, he just comes across as a guy so desperate for sex that he’s willing to skip work, ditch his family, and fly to another continent for it.

I sense that’s not the way for Republicans to win over Hispanics.


Some Friendly Advice

I’m not in the habit of giving advice to the Republican Party, which is just as well, because they’re not in the habit of accepting it. But in the spirit of bipartisanship, I offer the following: Drop the lame attacks on Sonia Sotomayor, because they’re not going to work.

obama_sotomayor_052609

I say this as a member of the Hispanic demographic, which as you know, is one of the 13,000 groups that Republicans are supposedly trying to win back. I also say it as an American citizen with common sense, which is one of the groups the GOP lost a long time ago.

Yes, we know that the Supreme Court nominee has one controversial ruling (the “reverse-discrimination” firefighter case) and that she mouthed off about Latinas making better decisions than white men. But Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh’s claims that she’s a closet bigot are simply not resonating. And unless pictures emerge of Sotomayor wearing a t-shirt saying, “I hate white people,” that isn’t going to change.

To my Republican friends, I say back off while you can. The first reason you can’t stop her is a factual one.

Sotomayor is a well-qualified judge with years of experience. The anonymous allegations that she is dim simply don’t add up (the woman was summa cum laude from Princeton… sounds like a moron to me).

In addition, she also offers a compelling story (The Bronx, diabetes, “Perry Mason,” and so on). Sotomayor had to earn her way into the Ivy League, where she excelled. She wasn’t some rich kid who got in because of family connections and then barely squeaked by with mediocre grades (ahem… where was I?).

This is a chance for Republicans to stop rebuking their own philosophy. You know the one I’m talking about: “Anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and not let their circumstances keep them back.”

Yet whenever someone actually does that – like President Clinton, President Obama, and Sotomayor – they wind up despised in conservative circles. Then the GOP goes with the son of a president or the son of an admiral to carry their standard. In truth, the last Republican I recall who actually came from dirt was Alberto Gonzalez, and we all (especially mortified Latinos) know how that one turned out.

Republicans should be thrilled. Here is a woman who actually did what they claim everyone can do: Raise up to greatness from lower-class origins. Weirdly enough, they don’t seem pleased see her.

Mike Huckabee couldn’t even be bothered to know her name.

In any case, the second reason for Republicans to cool it is a purely political one.

Do they really want to piss off the fastest-growing block of voters, who by the way, just rejected their presidential candidate by a factor of two to one? Is telling the first Latina ever nominated for the Supreme Court that she’s not good enough truly the message they want to send to Hispanics like me?

And I’m not even talking about the many women who would be furious, all of whom would rightly ask, “So Clarence Thomas is ok up there, but not another woman?”

Speaking of Thomas, I find it interesting that Republicans talk a great game about picking only the best and ignoring racial considerations. Eighteen years ago, Thomas was considered by many to be a lightweight who only got in because Thurgood Marshall was leaving, and Republicans wanted credit for appointing an African American to replace him. They denied this, of course, and said Thomas would go on to greatness. Two decades later, we’re still waiting for the guy to ask a question, author a memorable opinion, or be anything other than Antonin Scalia’s sidekick.

In any case, people like George Will come across as oblivious when they denounce “identity politics,” as if John Roberts’ upbringing as a straight white male has had no impact on his tendency to vote for the establishment.

Still, if all these reasons aren’t enough, let’s look at the basic math.

Democrats have 59 votes, and may even have a filibuster-proof 60 if the Minnesota mess ever gets figured out. Many of the 40 Republican Senators are moderates who are not terrified of a left-center Latina. So what chance do the 20 to 30 hard-right conservatives have to stop her confirmation? The numbers just aren’t there.

But let’s just say that Republicans derail the Sotomayor nomination. Then what happens?

Well, Obama just picks someone else they despise. And eventually, this person gets confirmed, giving us the same court we have today. If anything, such a court might be even more liberal than Sotomayor would have made it. Oh, and there’s also a whole lot of angry Hispanic and female voters now.

But go ahead, Republicans, don’t listen to me. You never have before.


Scotus

So President Obama has announced his pick to replace David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. It is Sonia Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. She would be the third woman and – yes it’s true – the first Hispanic to become a Supreme Court justice.

sonia_sotomayor

There’s some debate about that, actually, because Benjamin Cardozo, who served in the 1930s, was Portuguese-Jewish. I’ve written before about the complexity of pinpointing exactly who is Hispanic (my first post, in fact).  However, I’m going to be bold here and say that referring to Cardozo as Latino is the stretchiest of stretches. And I’m well aware that “stretchiest” is not a word; that’s how much I mean it.

Therefore, Sotomayor would be the first. That’s enough to get my attention. A brief look at her record indicates that she’s slightly liberal, which pleases me (a fact that will surprise no one who has read this blog).

She seems to have the respect of her colleagues, a fierce work ethic, and a solid, fairly noncontroversial record. So why isn’t she a slam-dunk for the job?

Well, some commentators have questioned her intelligence. I find this perplexing.

If someone can graduate from Princeton and Yale Law School (with honors), work as a high-level judge for seventeen years, be considered for one of the most important jobs in the country, and yet still be considered dim… well, it either means that there’s something seriously botched in our educational and political system, or the standards for regular Americans to be considered “bright” are appallingly low (I don’t know anybody who has her credentials, yet I mistakenly thought I knew some smart people).

One has to wonder if her supposed tendency to be “kind of a bully on the bench” and the assertion that she “has an inflated opinion of herself and is domineering” have influenced the opinion of her intellect.

Of course, I have no idea if Sotomayor is really a bully or not. But Antonin Scalia regularly gets cranky, and people respect his assertiveness. Perhaps we just don’t like to see that behavior in Hispanic women.

Maybe the description that one of her former clerks offered –that “she’s not shy or apologetic about who she is” – provides sufficient ammo for her critics. But she just sounds to me like a confident Latina.

As such, I hope she gets approved for the gig.


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