By Scott Tibbs, May 29, 2009
President Barack Obama shamelessly invoked identity politics with his pick for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayer. The Associated Press reported that the President claimed that "a Hispanic on the court would mark another step toward the goal of 'equal justice under law.'" Why would that be, Mr. President? how does the skin pigmentation of a nominee move us closer to equal justice? Are the white males currently on the court unable or unwilling to advocate for equality under the law, by virtue of their skin pigmentation?
Obama's remarks are consistent with the racist remarks that Sotomayer herself has made. The Family Research Council pointed out that Sotomayer once said that she "would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." As Rush Limbaugh pointed out on his radio program, imagine if John Roberts said the same thing, but flipped "white male" and "Latina woman" instead. Do you honestly think he would be on the Supreme Court today?
Even some conservatives have fallen into this silly political correctness and shameless racial pandering. A prominent anti-abortion group said in an email alert opposing Sotomayer's nomination that "we applaud the fact that Obama has nominated a Hispanic woman to the court." Why? Is she somehow more qualified by virtue of her skin pigmentation? Conservatives are playing a dangerous game when we bow to identity politics. The first danger is alienating supporters who reject identity politics, as well as reducing our credibility to oppose it in the future.
Some "conservatives" will no doubt argue that Republicans need to support or at least not openly oppose Sotomayer's nomination in order to win Hispanic votes. Hogwash. Democrats are much better at playing identity politics than Republicans, and they actually believe it. If given the choice between the real deal and a pale imitation, voters will choose the real thing. It strikes me as condescending and a little bit racist to claim we need to support a Hispanic SCOTUS nominee to get Hispanic votes. The way to win the votes of Hispanics (or blacks, or whites, or any other group) is to explain that Republican policies, grounded in conservatism, are the best way to empower the individual to be the best he can be. If we're going to sell out our core principles and play identity politics, what justification is there for the Republican party to even exist?
When it comes to Constitutional law, I could pick a number of people who are more than qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. The Constitution is a clearly written, simple document. There is no need to read through 500 pages of case law covering over 200 years to comprehend Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or the 14th Amendment's clear statement that "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." We do not need someone with empathy, who is willing to see things from another's perspective and form public policy. That is what legislators are supposed to do. A judge's job is much easier: read the literal, word-for-word text of the law you are applying, then make a ruling consistent with that text.