How did the Republican Party’s approach to dealing with objectionable Supreme Court nominees come to resemble the Democrats’ strategy for the war on terror: scorn anyone who says anything critical of the opposition and settle for second-class citizen status, dhimmitude-style? Are Republicans trying to balance Obama’s cooption of Bush’s war policy to restore some kind of harmony in the universe?
Over the past week, we’ve been treated by Republicans to a range of subtle and nuanced political stratagems for dealing with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, including: shut your mouth, don’t speak, zip your lip, don’t make waves, and while you’re at it, don’t say anything. This, from the party of “hawks” who bravely fought and won the Civil War, the Cold War, and the Battle of Chad.
Let’s examine the reasons offered by Republican turncoats why we should not tender a whisper against the Sotomayor nomination:
It’s mean-spirited. Well, Democrats successfully mobilized before Reagan’s fourth Supreme Court nomination, Robert Bork, savagely vowing to form a “phalanx of opposition” against anyone at all Reagan deigned to choose. Democrats tried to destroy George W. Bush appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito but failed only because they lacked the votes (at least they managed to invade Roberts’ family’s privacy and make Samuel Alito’s wife cry!). The Republicans have not opposed a Supreme Court nominee by a Democratic president since 1968. I think that at least qualifies as “sporting.”
It’s immature. In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan scolds Republicans for not “play[ing] grown-up” and calls those who want to fight against Sotomayor’s nomination “idiots” who refuse to “think” or “dress the part.” Let’s see: Five members of the Supreme Court have the power to make sweeping, life-or-death decisions that affect hundreds of millions of Americans and countless future generations. I think raising forceful objections to Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy and temperament comes down more on the adult side than “She has cooties!”
The Republicans will lose independent voters. Republicans have most often converted independent voters and won elections when they have stuck to the party’s principles rather than offering a watered-down version of the Democratic party line, as in November 2008. So remind me: How will consistently standing up and making a compelling case for their views cause Republicans to lose voters who are looking for a party that can offer consistent, compelling views?
The Republicans will lose political capital. Obama’s political goodwill toward Republicans began and ended with inviting John McCain to the White House for bean dip on Super Bowl night. Congressional Democrats’ political goodwill toward Republicans has yet to materialize, and never will until Republicans regain both houses and Democrats are on the defensive again.
Sotomayor is not that liberal. Just as Obama is the most leftist president we’ve ever had, Sotomayor would be the most leftist justice on the current Court, even more of a liberal activist than Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens, who seem like Daughters of the American Revolution in comparison.
Sotomayor won’t change the balance of power on the Court. Both Souter and Sotomayor are liberal on social issues, but they are not both liberal on economic issues. Souter is no Steve Forbes, but Sotomayor’s ruling in the shocking Port Chester “eminent domain” private property grab places her ideologically to the left of Marx.
Republicans will lose the Hispanic vote. Putting aside the condescending “voting bloc” mentality this ascribes to Latinos, it should be noted that Democrats weren’t worried about losing Hispanic votes when they opposed Bush’s nomination of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2002—indeed, they had enough stomach for the fight to wage seven filibusters against bringing him to a vote. If Republicans are concerned about losing Hispanic votes, I suggest they offer the thoroughly vetted Estrada as their preferred nominee.
Sotomayor has an impressive resume. Newsflash: So do a lot of people! I would wager that the number of potential nominees who went to top-tier undergraduate and law schools and managed to get a few employers and coworkers to say nice things about them numbers—oh, at least two or three. Also, Sotomayor’s supporters defend against the charge that a majority of her appeals court decisions were overruled by the Supreme Court by stating that such cases are difficult—yet we are now expected to support her addition to the same team of justices who are capable of correcting the types of rulings she screwed up. Finally, as Andrew McCarthy points out, Sotomayor’s ravings about the superior decision-making ability of certain races and genders doesn’t even quality her to be on a jury, let alone the Supreme Court.
Her confirmation is inevitable. The Supreme Court will be ruling on the Ricci v. Destefano firefighter discrimination case in June, weeks before Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. It is expected that the Court will overturn the decision Sotomayor supported, thus further energizing opponents of legalized racism (i.e., “Americans”). Republicans should also remind the nation that Obama hasn’t demonstrated the most thorough vetting acumen in his first few months in office, having nominated a “phalanx” (if you will) of tax cheats and ethically challenged miscreants to Cabinet and other posts.
How about this strategy for dealing with the current nominee? I say that even if Sotomayor’s resume is as long as the phonebook; even if someone makes a persuasive case that she’s not the most liberal justice in the world; even if Republicans are accused of being mean-spirited and immature; even if we lose a few wishy-washy independents, have a few Hispanics look at us askance, and ruffle a few Democratic feathers; and even if it’s not 100% certain that her confirmation can be stopped; the Republican party should fight this nominee kicking and screaming, hammering home the message about her record until her supporters get tired of brushing it under the rug, until we’ve made our point to the American public.