Friday, May 29, 2009

A Puerto Rican Republican's Take on Sotomayor

As someone who has an African American father and Puerto Rican mother, the selection of Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice on the US Supreme Court is something that fills this puertorriqueño with a bit of pride, even if he probably won't agree with every ruling she makes.

As the GOP gets ready for the confirmation hearings, I have this to say as a Republican:

Leave her alone.

There are few reasons I am offering this advice. President Obama probably picked the most dangerous person to bench...for Republicans. He picked a woman and he picked a Hispanic, the two groups that the GOP has just a wee bit of a problem attracting. That hasn't stopped conservatives from trying to rally the base and start going after Sotomayor. But maybe one would want to listen to Peggy Noonan:

Some, and they are idiots, look at Judge Sotomayor and say: attack, attack, kill. A conservative activist told the New York Times, "We need to brand her." Another told me a fight is needed to excite the base.

Excite the base? How about excite a moderate, or interest an independent? How about gain the attention of people who aren't already on your side?

The base is plenty excited already, as you know if you've ever read a comment thread on a conservative blog. Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left ("Worst person in the woooorrrlllddd!") are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged. They don't need to be revved, they're already revved. Newt Gingrich twitters that Judge Sotomayor is a racist. Does anyone believe that? He should rest his dancing thumbs, stop trying to position himself as the choice and voice of the base in 2012, and think.

So, if the GOP decides to listen to people like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich and call her a "racist" and what have you, you might as well kiss those two groups goodbye come 2010. The Republicans can ill afford to make themselves not only look like fools on the national stage, but sexist and racist to boot.

Thankfully, there are those that realize that we can't win this fight. Texas Senator John Cornyn had the courage to stand up to Limbaugh and Gingrich and said their attacks on Sotomayor were wrong. Of course, he's the guy that is trying to get more Republicans in the Senate come 2010. Being responsible for trying to right a sinking ship surely focuses the mind.

Yes, I know some Republicans will say that Democrats have been nasty to court appointees under Republican presidents. Witness for example, how Democrats treated what could have been the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court, Miguel Estrada.

All well and good. I agree that the Dems treated Estrada shamefully. But the fact is, even if it was unfair, the general public doesn't know or care about that. All they will see is a bunch of mostly white guys beating up on a middle-aged Puerto Rican woman. Yeah, it's unfair, but no one cares. The Dems could block a Hispanic and get away with it, but the GOP fairly or unfairly can't. Those are the rules.

Does this mean that the GOP should just roll over? Of course not. The Senate is the place to get to know this person and her judicial philosophy. Ask questions (politely). Probe what are her beliefs. Just don't turn this into some kind of interrogation to gin up support for far right, because that will be a death wish.

I did say there was another reason which is more basic and it's this: the president, regardless of party, should be able to pick who they want as a Justice. Elections have consequences and one of the perks of being a president is to pick whomever they want on the nation's highest court. If the other party doesn't like it, well that's why they have presidential elections every four years.

So, that's my message. The GOP should take heed if it doesn't want to slide farther into oblivion.

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