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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Favorable Sotomayor Narrative Forming for Republicans

Here's a quick quiz. After the first two days or say following her nomination, have you heard even one political discussion anywhere about Judge Sotomayor that didn't include an allusion to her controversial comments at Berkeley? I know I haven't. Now, I am here to say that this is totally unfair. No one should be defined by one comment no matter how inflammatory. It's also exactly the narrative that Republicans want as they move forward with the nomination.

It gets even better than that for Republicans. What's the one case most often mentioned when discussing the nomination of Judge Sotomayor? Of course, it's the Ricci case in which she ruled against seventeen white firefighters, including Mr. Ricci a dislexic, who had done well enough on a test to get a promotion but were denied.

All of this actually makes perfect sense. After all, how long could the media talk about her humble roots and rags to riches story? Don't get me wrong. That's still part of the narrative and it's parts relevant, important, and something to admire. Still, her humble roots get lost in the shuffle of these comments and the case.

Both the comments and the Ricci case are inflammatory and so they are potentially quite venomous. Furthermore, short of Rush and Newt, the Republicans have mostly been measured and disciplined in their message. Rather than rushing out to call her racist, they have almost as a group stuck to the term "troubled". Senator Lindsey Graham struck the right tone this morning.

What she said is that based on her life experiences is that she thought a Latina woman, somebody with her background, would be a better judge than a guy like me -- a white guy from South Carolina. It is troubling, and it's inappropriate and I hope she'll apologize.

Senator Schumer responded on another show by downplaying the comments. Schumer said that the comments merely reflect her experience as a poor minority.

Ultimately, all of this is entirely unimportant. Dick Morris once made an astute commet. He said the media doesn't influence opinion by what they say but rather what they cover. In other words, the manner in which the media covers these comments is a lot less important than that they are spending so much time covering it.

Like I have said, we still have two more months at least until the nomination. Furthermore, because of protocol, Sotomayor is very unlikely to speak publicly until the hearings. That means we are for endless analysis of these comments for two months without the one person necessary to really be able to explain them able to speak.

Now, it's still an overwhelming possibility that Sotomayor becomes a Supreme Court Justice. Still, if Republicans are able to make the next two months a narrative over these comments and the Ricci case, they will have won an important battle. That's because with it there will be a national debate on identity politics, activist judicial philosophy, and affirmative action and other quota systems. All of these are debates that Republicans will win. The public would then be likely to reject Sotomayor even if the Senate does not, and President Obama's radical philosophy will be on display. All of this is good for Republicans even if they ultimately lose the vote.


Jason Gillman said...

I would agree with your analysis as the situation stands, but I still think that Obama had little intention of this pick ever making it to the supreme court.

I believe she is a tool by the administration (Obama) to get the GOP to expend as much political energy as possible prior to other "big things" heading our way. True to Alinsky form, non stop pressure (Rule #8) keeps the Republican on their heels.

I say keep up the dialogue, and keep making the appropriate claim that "empathy" while a very human ingredient, has no place in the position of a "referee" which is the true role of the Supreme Court. Also, don't let up on criticisms of what she has stated, as it does seem to indicate she shouldn't be selected a JUROR by any attorney's objective challenge much less a sitting judge, a position she already holds.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit, as a Democrat the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear people talk about Sotomayor is Samuel Alito and the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. But other than that, I think you're right, Mike. The Republicans can't really win this but that doesn't mean they can't win any points.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering, Mike. Can the Republicans still score points off the Sotomayor confirmation if a number of Republicans vote for it?

mike volpe said...

The answer is yes but only because you ask a very broad question. In fact, Krauthammer advised exactly this. I think that as long as the debate focuses on these comments, identity politics, and affirmative action, then the Republicans have a huge political victory.

It ultimately depends on who votes for her and what reason. For instance, it would be perfectly appropriate for a Senator to say they are troubled by her philosophy and personal statements and that they themselves wouldn't nominate her but that they respect that it is the President's choice and that she has a good enough resume to qualify.

Jason Gillman said...

I have a good enough resume to qualify, without even a single law degree.

The fact is, Sotomayer's Judicial experience should be used as a hammer by Republicans who can then point out the "UMPIRE cant see straight" enough to call the game.

If she makes it to the court, even the Dems will be scratching their heads for years how they could have allowed her to be a referee in one of the most important games of history.

Throw out all of the racial sensitivity or lack thereof. It isn't now, nor should it ever be considered for such positions.