Saturday, May 02, 2009

Values And Ideology: To The Back Of The Bus

Joe Conason typically writes provocative article from the left for salon.com, and his latest, "The Supreme Court Pick of Obama's Dreams" is no exception. However, it is wrongheaded and misleading.

Conason argues that the likely selection of Sonia Sotomayor, judge on the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, to replace retiring justice David Souter, Conason would presents President Obama with a tremendous political opportunity, as Sotomayor likely would be loudly opposed by Republicans. How, he gloats "do you say 'bring it' in Spanish?" He argues

As a female her elevation would begin to bring gender equity to a forum where historically men have exercised far too much unchallenged power over the lives of the women. As a Latina, her rise would symbolize the next stage in the full enfranchisement of immigrants whose language, status and poverty have too often turned them into scapegoats for the cultural and economic costs of globalization.

Consider that Conason says here that the appointment:

1) would "bring gender equity" to the Supreme Court "("to a forum...). Nothing here about gender equity in society, only on one, admittedly influential, court;

2) "would symbolize the next stage in the full enfranchisment of immigrants...." Nothing here about advancing the enfranchisment of immigrants- only about "symbolizing" the cause. And no acknowledgement that though Sotomayor's parents, from Puerto Rico, were immigrants, they were Americans before even entering the United States- unlike, say, Mexicans, in whose category Sotomayor so cavalierly places Puerto Ricans.

3) would be a repudiation of immigrants being turned "into scapegoats for the cultural and economic costs of globalization." Again, insofar as immigrants have been turned into scapegoats for globalization (a facile and superficial treatment of the issue of immigration/illegal immigration), Puerto Ricans have not typically been used as such scapegoats. Except by extremely ignorant individuals unable or unwilling to differentiate them from Mexicans or other immigrants.

Suggesting we "leave(ing) aside for a moment the question of her precise place on the judicial spectrum between liberal and conservative," Conason later suggests "Sotomayor is considerably more moderate in her thinking and practice than Samuel Alito or John Roberts."

And that is the problem- if accurate- Conason glosses over. He contends that Obama could ignore the charge that in the appointment of Sotomoyer, he is ignoring white males, "because, thanks to his predecessor, members of that group were awarded the last two seats on the court."

But John Roberts and Samuel Alito are not white males. They are conservatives. And they were not appointed because they were white males but rather because they were conservatives. (If Conason believes otherwise, he should go immediately to the point and accuse George W. Bush of racism.) And while Conason and those of similar viewpoint urge selection of minorities and women irrespective of viewpoint (and judicial temperament, age of nominee/likely length of service, etc.), conservatives/Republicans will push this President, and presumably future presidents of either party, to appoint justices who are outraged by (abridged list): regulation of the financial industry; environmental safeguards; gun control; the graduated income tax; the Sixth Amendment.

Joe Conason may be right that the GOP could not vehemently denounce selection of Sonia Sotomayor without practically immolating itself, and she might even be the individual most likely to bring over a long period advanced qualities of scholarship, leadership, and progressive/liberal values to the Court. But that would be far superior motivation than the lure of ill-defined "change" in ethnicity, gender, or any other factor an individual gains by dint of parentage.

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