Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Talking Points Memo is doing a great job of covering the discussion at the confirmation hearings for Judge Sotomayor - one of the better jobs, in fact, so I recommend using that for the next few days (and reading the prior coverage by Pincus - he's a new fave). More legally oriented than, for example, the NY Times site. Also recommended - El Diario's coverage on Twitter.

As to my own feelings on the matter... I actually do think the rigour with which they're questioning her is good - she shouldn't be guaranteed to get in, because it's bloody important.

Moreover, I find the liberal side's cries of "oh, but she's so qualified that they're looking elsewhere" (see Dahlia Lithwick on The Rachel Maddow Show) a little disingenuous. I disagree - one of the first things I loved about Obama was his statement on why he wasn't going to vote for Alito. Because despite his perfect paper qualifications, Alito's record indicated that he always came out on the side of the more powerful. That indicated an imbalance in his judgment. Sotomayor has a much more mixed record, which doesn't indicate anything like Alito's bias. The problem is not that they're looking elsewhere, but where they're looking - which is straight at the big fat fact that she's a Latina.

What I hadn't realised - that I learnt from TRMS - was the constant reference to other judges of Latino descent - and particularly revolting was the implication that she had to vote the same way as Cabranes ("himself of Puerto Rican descent") on the Ricci en banc decision, or she was a racist. Oh, Jeff Sessions. Really?

As for the "wise Latina," I would expect her to possibly know a bit more about what constitutes discrimination. I've had numerous discussions with extremely bright, thoughtful men who simply did not understand that certain things felt intimidating, harassing or unpleasant to women, particularly in the workplace. If you've occupied a position of privilege your entire life, you cannot be guaranteed to understand the feelings of someone who has had barriers erected in front of them - particularly when those barriers have become increasingly subtle because most people with power have learned that you can't go around referring to a black man as "boy" and getting away with it. You use experience to help you understand context - and if you don't have that experience, you may benefit from someone who has. The decision in the school strip search case really did seem to benefit from RBG's understanding of what was reasonable as a young woman. In contrast, people like Sessions only seem to understand "discrimination" as "deprivation of privilege."

As for SS, I don't think she's anywhere near liberal enough for what I would like to see the Court become. But she'll do for now. As will the Republicans' willingness to show themselves as bitter, angry men who really aren't interested in diversity - either on the bench or in their electorate.

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