If you believe the myth that Democrats are champions of equality for women, racial minorities, and folks with "compelling" life stories, maybe you've been spending more time tracking Big Foot than judicial nominations.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's Hispanic nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, is the perfect pick to reinforce their myth.
That's not to diminish in any way Sotomayor's life story and accomplishments, which are impressive and admirable. Still, the American people expect a full and fair hearing regarding her competence, judicial philosophy, temperament, and commitment to "Equal Justice Under Law."
The self-anointed authority on "mainstream" judges, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has already warned that "if Republicans oppose Sonia Sotomayor, they'll do so at their "own peril."
You don't have to be a world-class cryptographer to bust that code. No matter how courteous and respectful Republicans are to Sotomayor, the first and every time a Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) asks her a relevant question about her judicial philosophy, statements, court opinions (which have a reversal rate of 60 percent in the Supreme Court), the Democrats will consume most of the SJC's time ranting against Republicans as "anti-Hispanic misogynists."
Here's some advice and consent for Republicans: "Get over it."
Democrats are so taken by their munificent minority myth that they can't grasp how demeaned and offended most women and minorities feel about being force-fed affirmative action and set-asides. Most of us believe that we really are capable of making it on our intellect and abilities if we have equal opportunity at the starting line.
Sotomayor's ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano is certainly worth examining, especially in light of her statement: "I 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."
Ricci concerns firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who were denied promotions because no black firefighters qualified for advancement. Sotomayor, as part of a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit appeals court, upheld the city's rejection of a race discrimination lawsuit by white firefighters and one Hispanic. She voted with the majority of the full court in refusing to rehear the case. The Supreme Court is currently considering the case, and will announce its opinion at the end of June.
If they can stomach it, Republicans should prep themselves for Sotomayor's confirmation hearing by reviewing tapes or reading transcripts of Judge Janice Rogers Brown's hearing. Brown was President George W. Bush's African-American nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats weren't so smitten with her compelling life story that they were incapable of asking her tough questions.
Democrats should have championed Judge Brown's confirmation, not because of her compelling life story, but because of her record as an exemplary judge committed to the rule of law, equality for all Americans, and her limited role as a judge.
Instead, privileged, wealthy, white Democrats attacked Brown as an "extreme right-wing" judge who didn't care about "civil rights" or the "down-trodden." They were unconstrained by accusations of racism and sexism.
When the Democrats ended their nearly two-year delay, including a filibuster of Brown's re-nomination in 2005, their attacks continued. They claimed their opposition wasn't racist or sexist:
- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) ridiculed Bush nominees including Brown, as "Neanderthals." He attacked Brown as "another extreme right-wing candidate ... a judicial activist who will roll back basic rights."
- Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said: "I oppose giving Justice Brown this lifetime promotion to the second highest court in our land because the American people deserve judges who will interpret the law fairly and objectively. Janice Rogers Brown is a committed judicial activist who has a consistent record of using her position as a member of the court to put her views above the law and above the interests of working men and women and families across the Nation."
- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said: "Janice Rogers Brown is one of President Bush's most ideological and extreme judicial nominees."
- Schumer said: Judge Brown "is the least deserving of all of President Bush's appeal court nominees."
Many political pundits apparently share Democrats' low opinion of Hispanic voters. All we've heard thus far is, "Republicans don't dare go after Sotomayor," or they'll lose the Hispanic voting bloc.
Democrats are counting on Hispanics forgetting that it was Democrats who blocked Honduran immigrant Miguel Estrada's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals solely because they couldn't abide the prospect that President Bush might elevate the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court. Hispanics should be insulted by the race-baiting. They know the difference between addressing an issue and attacking a person. That's what Democrats do when a woman or a minority won't toe the Party line as a judge.
Americans don't expect or want Republicans to behave like Democrats. But they do want a thorough review and some tough questioning of Sotomayor's record, speeches and opinions.
A Latina woman can take it, especially a former prosecutor who grew up in the South Bronx. Besides, she's probably looking forward to the chance to prove she's smarter than white guys.
Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union; former Chief Counsel at Concerned for Women; former Legal Studies Director at Family Research Council; and former Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families.