Saturday, November 17, 2018

False Reality, False Hope

On Friday's episode of "The View," host Caryn Elaine Johnson, known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, took exception to ridicule by Washington Examiner reporter Eddie Scarry of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Scarry had tweeted out a photograph of the incoming freshman member of Congress along with "Hill staffers sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I'll tell you something- that jacket and coat don't look like a girl who struggles."

Justifiably, the vice-hosts of The View also criticized  Scarry (who later deleted the tweet), though oddlynone pointed out that Ocasio-Cortez's outfit was professional and that she is no more a "girl" than, say, Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) is a "boy." 

That is a concept which probably escapes Goldberg, given that she condescendingly warned the reporter "hush, boy."

This incident, admittedly, is a trivial one. However, Goldberg made a much more serious error when- either ignorantly or disingenuously- she appeared to correct Sunny Hostin. The latter, while defending Ocasio-Cortez, had made the mistake of having prepared for the topic and stated

... and if you look at all of Congress, I mean, the Senate is filled with gazillionaires, the Representatives, the House, filled with gazillionaires. And do you know if you look, at all the money, working class people have never ever been able to- I found this stat, that no one from the working class has gotten into politics and gone on to become governor or Supreme Court Justice or the President. That is unbelievable- unbelievable.

Goldberg, undeterred by a panel member having done research, responded "Sonia Sotomayor was a working class woman. That's- that- they flash that stat."

Whether Hoskins' information applies to every Representative, Senator, President, and Supreme Court Justice, we'll never know. In a flash, Hostin remembered who the star is and quickly backtracked.

It's unfortunate that she did. Sotomayor was born into a working-class family but even before being becoming a United States Supreme Court Justice in 2009, was a huge professional success and had left those working-class roots behind.  After graduating from Yale Law School and passing the bar examination, Sotomayor worked in the NYC, NY district attorney's office and in 1984

entered private practice, making partner at the commercial litigation firm Pavia & Harcourt, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation. She moved from associate to partner at the firm in 1988. While she climbed the ladder there, Sotomayor also served on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York City Campaign Finance Board and the State of New York Mortgage Agency.

Sotomayor's pro bono work at these agencies caught the attention of Senators Ted Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who were partially responsible for her appointment as U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York City. President George H.W. Bush nominated her for the position in 1992, which was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on August 11, 1992. When she joined the court, she was its youngest judge. On her 43rd birthday, June 25, 1997, she was nominated for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton. She was confirmed by the Senate that October.

Sotomayor's current socio-economic status- and her professional status prior to being elevated to the Court- are typical of her colleagues. It is typical, also, of officials throughout the upper echelons of government, the point Hostins made amidst Goldberg's denial. The Washington Post noted in July

If the Senate approves Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, every justice sitting on the Supreme Court will have attended either Yale's or Harvard’s law school. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard and transferred to another Ivy, Columbia.)

“The elitism on the Supreme Court is worrying,” said Benjamin Barton, a law professor at University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “From the age of 18, these people have all essentially done the same thing, followed the same path, run in the same cloistered circles. That’s not healthy.”

In 2012, Barton published a comprehensive study on the personal backgrounds of Supreme Court justices. He found that the modern-era court presided over by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was in many ways the most elitist, homogenous group assembled since the court's inception.

While the current justices are far more diverse in gender and race than past decades, their educational and work backgrounds are almost uniform

Latina Sonia Sotomayor has a reasonably modest (though not poverty-stricken) background, her mother having been a nurse and her father a tool-and-die maker.  Whatever her background, she no longer is working-class. Most members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, moreover, come from relatively privileged backgrounds. And now every member of the US Supreme Court sports a law degree from Harvard and Yale.

So Hostin's remarks did not originate from a mere "stat," notwithstanding Goldberg's misdirection. The federal government is filled with individuals from an elite background, and saturated with people who are wealthy or at least of a socio-economic class most Americans will never attain.

The implication of Goldberg's remark, whether born of ignorance or deception, reflects what many on the left- and especially Democratic politicians- fail to understand or willfully ignore.

Class counts, and too much. Against the odds, Sotomayor overcame the twin professional handicaps of ethnicity and gender. However, focusing exclusively on the advancement of women and ethnic minorities, and celebrating them, will blind us to the factor of class and reinforce the myth of unlimited mobility in American society- at least for white males.

Moreover, the American people will not be fooled. We know that the system, if not rigged, is  skewed obscenely toward the privileged, and that males and whites are not immune from this distortion.  And when loads of privileged elites- Whoopi Goldberg among them- imply that the path is clear for anyone to ascend to the highest ranks of government, a resentment builds that has unintended, dangerous consequences.

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