Giving the Republicans a Whole Lot of Rope...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

As a State of Michigan employee, I was keeping an eye on the possibility that Governor Jennifer Granholm would get the Supreme Court nod, so I was somewhat blinded by the significance of the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor was on Obama’s short list from the beginning. Her outstanding credentials have always been obvious, but what crept up on me was how brilliantly Obama put Republicans into a box.

Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity, was clearly an asset for Obama, but he doesn’t merely get to check off the Latina box on the list of historic moments, he has made a political calculation that is relevant for this moment in Republican history. This is one more make it or break it time for the already ailing minority party.

What are the R’s to do with Sotomayor? She has been appointed by two previous Presidents, one Democrat and one Republican and has already been confirmed in a bipartisan fashion. She is the first appointee by Obama, so the Republicans will want to draw a little blood and not be seen as weak. She is seen by many as very liberal and her comments on appeals judges creating policy surely infuriates the right of the Republican base.

I always thought that if the 2008 election didn’t go to the Democrats, demographic changes in this country would surely kill of the Republican Party as we know it today. The Republican base is shrinking as groups they have routinely alienated have grown, including black’s and Hispanics. Gays, another constant target of the party base, has gained greater sympathy in the public’s mind. People support science in stem cell research and the teaching of evolution. Religious participation is dropping.

According a friend of mine who has been involved in Hispanic civil rights since the 1960’s, this appointment has gone over huge, HUGE in Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican and all other Hispanic communities. According to her, rarely do these groups come together as one voice as they have in this instance. This is a watershed moment.

This leads us back to the Republican conundrum. The far right forces are itching for a fight, folks like Randall Terry, Founder, of “Operation Rescue” the anti-abortion group want a filibuster. The Repubs are clearly test-marketing labels, Such as “Che Guevara in robes.” Some have already questioned her intellect, just as opponents of Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas did, and just as people through out the ages have questioned the intellect of minorities. Some are attempting to label her a racist.

They have a choice. They can attack and discredit a clearly intelligent woman, and permanently lose the support of the Hispanic community or they can roll over and alienate the only part of the Republican Party not in taters: the religious far–right. Unless they find some lurid photos and can force Obama to retract her nomination, they should take the smart route, roll over and live to fight another day for the middle ground of voters.

I am betting they are not that smart.


UPDATE, May 29th:

It has been brought to my attention that I may have pulled a Dowd and plagiarized a friendly fellow blogger.

In his May 26th post, Mr. Furious states:

I barely mentioned the whole "empathetic judge" thing, but it appears to be a perfect example of Obama handing the Republicans just enough rope.”
While I had missed his blog post, I am taking this opportunity to give Mr. Furious due credit.


Smitty 8:52 AM  

I am betting you're right.

So far, they have also nailed Sotomayor on her dining habits, linking her to Obama's Dijon-gate. They have also slammed her for being too Latina, or falsely Latina, at the same time.

They have no idea what to do here but implode.

That whole thing about "the court of appeals is where policy is made" was at once a quip to law school students who'd think that was funny because they just learned about it, and also, as Media Matters points out, the equivalent of saying the sun rises in the East. The fucking Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court mentions the policy role of the appeals court.

The right is preying, once again, on the fact that most of us have no idea of the complexities of the judicial system, so they know they can get away with their half-truths.

Bob 9:31 AM  

The court of appeals quip so plays into Obama's hands. It will fire up the far right, who will demand action be taken. The R's cannot win on this one.

Love it.

B Mac 10:29 AM  

Vegas odds on the first big-shot Republican to accidentally cross the ethnic sensitivity line? Perhaps by calling her the wrong name, in a hilariously stereotypical way?

Oops,too late. We have our winner.

Andy 12:49 PM  

Why do they care about the hispanic community? They made a play for that voting block once before, and lost badly.

I think they should let this go. They should do their due-dilgiance...but attacking a qaulified candidate now simply makes no sense and will not get them any traction.

Realistically, the Dems only need one GOP to defeat the filibuster. But I would let the filibuster happen. Let the nation and world see the pettiness of bringing the Senate to a halt in order to fight the pick of the President for the Supreme Court. That would be tragic for the GOP, and someone would fold. Snowe or some other moderate.

Where is Al Franken when you need him? (yes, going through the courts!)

Smitty 12:51 PM  

Andy Andy Andy....that's why they are going to do the things that you said they shouldn't do: because it is horribly bad for them! Look at the last several months' worth of bombs...

Bob 12:56 PM  

"Why do they care about the hispanic community?"Well, if they don't they are going to lose every election in the future.

Andy 2:32 PM  

The tide will turn, my friends. The Republicans WILL get smarter. The pendulum always shifts. In 1994, everyone thought the Dems were dead. Clinton was acting like a Republican and using Dick Morris. Dems who were winning were using GOP language. Now it is exactly the other way.

But the tide will turn. Maybe the GOP will realize how to do that soon.

(not that I want them to...I enjoy being in the majority in my elected position!)

Smitty 2:49 PM  

Sure the tide will turn, but maybe this one will take 20 years like the last one just did. Any group in power is eventually going to get drunk on it and make stupid decisions. Plus, in this case, one of the two parties is increasingly filled with neocon warmongers, religious zealots that comprise a small percentage of the population, and grumpy racists.

Bob 3:37 PM  

Smitty: "Plus, in this case, one of the two parties is increasingly filled with neocon warmongers, religious zealots that comprise a small percentage of the population, and grumpy racists."In response to Andy and Smitty, I have to agree with Smitty’s comment.

I think this is different. When the Democrats were out of power, they weren't controlled by essentially a single, monolithic group of people driven by religious zealotry. I think the only way for the R’s to come back is to make it look like they are accepting and moderate and have the zealots hide in the wings. That will be tough because the zealots are expecting payback for their service to the party.

Andy: In 1994, everyone thought the Dems were dead. Clinton was acting like a Republican and using Dick Morris. Dems who were winning were using GOP language. Now it is exactly the other way.The Dems were dead because they were acting like Republicans. Clinton won and then promptly cost us Congress. Dems acting like Republicans only worked when you had the gift of communications that Clinton has. When a wishy-washy Democrat ran against the Contract with America, it was clear that the Dems stood for nothing and the Repubs. had a message.

Now that Dems are standing up for what they believe in, they win elections.

Clinton sucked.

steves 6:56 PM  

Excellent analysis, Bob. I will admit that I was kind of pulling for Granholm. I htink she has a keen legal mind and would have made a good Justice.

I have been following a variety of discussions on Volokh and The National Journal. For the most part, both of those sites have offered good analyses of Sotomayor and her past decisions and case law. Many have said that she will likely be very similar to Souter, though that is probably very hard to predict. While she is to the left on many issues and is generally pro-plaintiff, Big Business seems to have a favorable opinion of her, which seems to fit with Obama policy.

Past nominations typically turn into some kind of political circus, so I don't expect anything different this time. Accusations of rascism and misogyny plagued the hearings of Alito and Roberts. The Thomas and Bork hearings were also "intereting." I don't expect this to be any different, though it would be nice to see some intelligent questions for once.

I also doubt that this will offer any long term boost among Hispanic voters. The average person has little idea of what kinds of things the Supreme Court decides, nor could most people probably name anyone on the Supreme Court. Remember when Bush attempted to appoint Miguel Estrada to the DC Court of Appeals. He was intelligent, Hispanic, and had an impressive record. The Democrats filibustered (the first time ever against a Court of Appeals nominee) to prevent his nomination. There was no backlash against the Democrats and many people seemed to confuse Miguel Estrada with Erik Estrada. While this is certainly a more high profile nomination, I doubt this will be all that big of a deal to the Republicans or the Democrats.

If the Republicans are smart, they will limit their questions and attacks to her past decisions, any inconsistencies, and judicial philosophy.

Mr Furious 8:34 PM  

Granholm will have her chance...I'm betting Obama gets to seat two more Justices before he's done.


Bob, I had post up right away on how Obama was handing the Repubs their own heads on a platter. It's more than the woman / Latino factor—it's was his somewhat puzzling (at the time) insistence on an "empathetic" Justice.

He, of course, knew he would be nominating a woman, and now the use and abuse of that term against Sotomayer will give the R's backlash among ALL women, not just Latinos.

Mr Furious 8:55 PM  

Steves, this is different. When the Dems opposed Estrada, it was for a much more tangible reason (or excuse)—the guy had never served as a judge. That, and his conservative views were the only things I recall ever being cited by the opposition.

Plus it was a Circuit Court nomination and no one was paying attention.

In this case, it is a Supreme Court nomination and a historic one by a new President (also a barrier-breaker). She is clearly qualified, and was appointed to her previous positions with substantial Republican support—they don't have a lot to throw at her that will stick.

Think about this, as well—the Democrats actually have minority members in their caucuses; they already have the benefit of the doubt from minority groups—so when they oppose a minority appointment it doesn't come with the same baggage.

The GOP can't help itself, or prevent its minions from careening full-speed ahead on race-based and insulting attacks.

When a drawling cracker like Jeff Sessions leads the opposition on the Judicial Committee, the optics are inescapable.

When the right-wing media jumps right to Che Guevara in a robe analogies and questions her intellect, it's pretty hard to not read racism into it.

When they slam her as an affirmative action pick, that doesn't score them any points...

When they call her a reverse racist—and the ALL are, and LOUDLY—they are implying that being a minority means you are biased against whites...

The GOP starts out as the default party of racism. That they immediately run out and prove it is going to damage them in much bigger and more permanent ways than the Dems would ever have to worry about.

Mr Furious 9:40 PM  

Let's not forget a little thing called "immigration reform" has happened since 2003

Bob 7:02 AM  

From Mr. Furious:

“I barely mentioned the whole "empathetic judge" thing, but it appears to be a perfect example of Obama handing the Republicans just enough rope.”

Holy-shit, I am a plagiarizer!

While I usually check your blog regularly, I missed that post. Sorry about that.

Mr Furious 10:03 AM  


You made a completely separate point about the Sophie's Choice the GOP faces—piss off the base or alienate any growth opportunities.

Now if, over beers, Smitty had told you about my post and that I thought Obama was giving the Republicans just enough rope, and you went online and literally copied and pasted, THEN you'd be pulling a Dowd...

steves 6:49 AM  

Excuse is more like it. While he had no judicial experience, the ABA (which is most certainly not a conservative group) said he was "well-qualified" for the post. He also had clerked for an appellate judge and for Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He then spent his career working in various capacities as a government attorney. I would agree with the ABA and say he was well qualified for the DC post. I suspect his filibuster had more to do with his politics and the Dems not wanting the GOP to make any inroads with Hispanics.

If this nomination generates a lot of support for the Dems among Hispanics, I will be surprised. Past nominations that are similar haven't done this. With the exception of very high profile cases like Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore, most of the public pays little or no attention to what the Court is doing. I think Hispanics are more likely to be swayed by how the parties deal with issues that have a more tangible effect on their lives.

As for the racism charge, I think that accusation is often used too quickly, but will readily acknowledge that my background doesn't make me all that sensitive to what is racist. I have heard the Che insult used against other liberals that are non-Hispanic, so it is possible that they are trying to link her to some other aspect of Che that is non-racist. I don't really know, as none of people I follow have made this comparison.

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