Yes, the Senate should vote Yes on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The main reason I reach this conclusion is that there is no compelling reason to vote no.
I watched about half of Sotomayor’s testimony, and read reports about her testimony as well. Based on my observations, and what critics have said, there are reasons to vote no, but none of them are sufficiently compelling.
As to the “wise Latina” statement, Sotomayor’s explanation was evasive, disingenuous, and at times non-sensical. As I have written before, I think Sotomayor meant what she said, and said what she meant. But her statements were nothing more than the commonplace racial and ethnic identity politics which permeate the Democratic party. The statements did not make her a “racist” or in and of themselves disqualify her from the Court in light of her record of judging, which does not display such tendencies in any measurable way.
I also do not believe that Sotomayor would want to be viewed as carrying a racial or ethnic agenda onto the Court. To carry that burden would minimize Sotomayor’s accomplishments, denigrate her intelligence, and ultimately doom her to being a caricature. Having watched Sotomayor for hours, there is no doubt in my mind that she wants to be remembered as a great Justice. Whether she can reach that goal remains to be seen, but Sotomayor seems to appreciate that the politics of race and ethnicity will not be the road to get there.
The Ricci case also was troubling because Sotomayor punted a chance to give a thoughtful discussion to the issues when the case was before her, and her result and approach were wrong. But again, I do not perceive her to have been driven by a racial or ethnic agenda in that regard. She was wrong, but sometimes judges are wrong.
As to whether Sotomayor is qualified, there is no question that she meets whatever that minimal and ill-defined threshold happens to be. If she is not qualified, and does not truly understand constitutional law, as some contend, then she will not be a force on the Court, much like the person she is replacing. There may be a time to lay down the gauntlet over a nominee’s qualifications, but this is not the time.
I put no stock in fear of a Hispanic backlash from a “no” vote. Judge her on the merits, and let the chips fall where they may. I also put no stock in wishful thinking that anything Republicans do will change the Democratic attack machine when it comes to Republican nominees.
In the end, I went on gut as well. Sotomayor came across as likable, genuine (other than as to the “wise Latina” statement) and a decent person. Maybe that is not enough, or even a requirement, but it sets her apart from so many of the Democratic Senators who are shepherding her through the process.
We should not give in to the enormous temptation to make a Democratic nominee pay for the disgusting treatment Democrats have visited on Republican nominees. Believe me, I would like to give it back to Democrats for the way they treated Robert Bork, Samuel Alito, and others.
But at the end of the day, we are not they, and we always should remember that. And be thankful.