Voting against an Hispanic woman a curious choice

Sonia Sotomayor became an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday. She was the first Hispanic and only the third woman in the history of the court to do so.
As had been widely forecast, most of the Republicans in the Senate — including Kansas senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts — voted against her nomination.
The Kansas senators and other opposing Republicans explained that they opposed her nomination because they feared she would be biased in favor of women, Hispanics and the poor.
They had a point. It is very difficult for anyone to set aside one’s life experiences in reaching judgments. If misters Roberts and Brownback had been nominated to the court, opponents would be concerned, and rightly so, that they would be biased in favor of conservative Republicans who opposed abortion, favored gun rights and had the additional advantages of being white males who grew up on a farm. Wouldn’t show none of the empathy stuff, either.
In fact, there have never been any nominees to the nation’s highest court that stood before the U.S. Senate for confirmation unblemished by a single formative experience or earnest conviction. (What kind of president would dream of picking such an empty suit for such an important position?)
What turned off so many Republicans was that Sotomayor was not only a woman, but she also grew up in poverty in the projects of Brooklyn and had to claw her way into a highly successful legal career. Her hard scrabble probably did leave her with some negative thoughts about the privileged few.
So I shouldn’t be critical, a friend said Saturday, of the Republicans who said no.
“They were only protecting their base,” he explained. They weren’t voting against women, or Hispanics, or people who grew up poor. It just looked that way.

WELL, OK. I have no problem with any Republican who opposed Sotomayor because they felt she did not share their political culture. They were dead on. She isn’t a Republican conservative. She would not have been likely to line up with the conservative Republicans on the court. The ideological reasons for voting no were clear enough.
But she was President Obama’s choice and she was certain to be confirmed.
With those facts in mind, it amazes me is that only nine of the Senate’s 40 Republicans seemed to recognize that voting for her on the basis of her 17 years of experience as a federal judge and her reputation as a top flight legal scholar gave them an opportunity to broaden their party’s base and show that they could, wonder of wonders, work with their Democrat colleagues — this one time at least.
As icing on the political cake, they could also have taken public pride in voting to confirm the third female justice and then say, “see, I told you I have a deep respect for Hispanics.”
It was an opportunity lost.


— Emerson Lynn, jr.