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|Sotomayor likely to be confirmed|
Last November, Barack Obama won the Presidential election and with it the right to nominate justices to serve on the Supreme Court. Within a few months of taking the oath of office, it was learned that Justice David Souter wanted to resign.
While this would have come as a relief to Republicans, if the GOP had taken the White House, but having a liberal President replace a liberal Justice with another liberal Justice just emphasizes how important elections really are and why it stinks to lose.
If, though, you want to blame someone, then look to White House Chief of Staff John Sununu who assured conservatives in 1990 that Souter was one of their own. As an aside, Senators Kennedy and Kerry were part of only a handful to vote against Souter. Their reasoning was that Souter was too 'right wing'.
It looks like all the experts were wrong about Souter. While he initially voted with the moderates and conservatives, increasingly Souter sided with the left on matters related to privacy and abortion.
Now, we move into recent times.
There was much speculation about the type of nominee Obama would be looking for if he became President. According to a campaign speech, Obama asserted, "We need somebody who's got the heart — the empathy — to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old, and that's the criteria by which I'll be selecting my judges."
Did he say, "Empathy?" Wait a minute while a go back to read that quote again.
Yep, he said, "Empathy!" Obama apparently would want someone who feels their way to a decision based on their identity and not sound jurisprudence.
But, I too know a little something about empathy. Empathy only works for those nominated by Democrat and not Republicans.
Where were the empathy votes for Clarence Thomas? Or Miguel Estrada? Did you hear a single 'empathy-over-judicial-philosophy-voter' side with Thomas because of his race or Estrada because of his ethnicity?
So now enter Sonia Sotomayor. Much has been made about her so-called 'Latina-woman' speech she gave at Duke University a few years ago.
Then, she claimed, "…a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
"White male" is often code for GOP or conservative. I guess an old cracker cannot serve on the bench as effectively as a Puerto Rican female.
Judicial Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) put the GOP on notice, "Judge Sotomayor's journey to this hearing room is a truly American story. Let no one demean this extraordinary woman."
Translation: Democrats can play identity politics and promote policies and people based on race, gender or ethnicity, but you sorry racist Republicans better not question one of our nominees, especially on matters of substance, because everyone knows what you people are all about.
I guess for one of the political parties, race and ethnicity will remain as tools to divide Americans. How about this for identity politics: there is only one protestant on the Supreme Court. All others are either Jewish or Catholic. Can you imagine how Democrats would lose their minds if the GOP nominated a Southern Baptist?
But, Sotomayor has backtracked already and distanced herself from her objectionable remarks, "I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt: I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging."
Question: if her remarks were not so bad, then why feel the need to back-pedal?
While it is hard to see Sotomayor being more liberal than Souter, her position on the court seems like it will ensure narrowly split decisions on key issues.
If the future is anything like the past, then Sotomayor will be confirmed and only Republicans will voice any doubts.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.