The word around Washington and the interwebs says that Obama is leaning towards Second Court of Appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace the retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. But here’s the real news.
He won’t pick her.
Why? A Sotomayor choice is too obvious, too bold, and too representative of his majority electorate not bipartisan enough for Obama’s preferred “eh” style of don’t rock the boat governing. Besides all of that, Sotomayor isn’t a member of the president’s fraternal order of Chicago politico insiders geographically or ideologically.
But the biggest reason Obama won’t tap Sotomayor to fill the soon to be open seat is that its too smart of a political move. Yes, I said too smart of a political move.
Don’t get me wrong, the Obama administration has done a decent job of shepherding the country during his first 100 days in office, but bold and daring he is not. From the financial crisis to health care reform to his refusal to end horrible policies like don’t ask don’t tell, Obama has time and again preferred to ignore the high profile, IE popular, liberal causes in favor of underwhelming, but still important, off the radar policies. Of course, all of this is ironic coming from the man who ran on “audacity” and won because of lofty idealism.
But I digress.
The real tragedy is that nominating Judge Sotomayor would be a savvy win win situation where the goal of finding a well qualified justice and gaining political ground converge.
At this point, we know how Republicans are going to act when Obama announces his nominee. They’ll hate them. (The phrase batshit crazy comes to mind.) Liberal activist this, radical philosophy that. All troupes you can expect from conservatives. But with all the vitriol and hate republicans have espoused its always only a matter of time before the racial attacks occur. Why? Because they always come. They might come in code, they might come indirectly, but just like Michael Jordan in the playoffs, they always deliver.
But here’s the rub. With the white male national party Republican party increasingly losing its appeal to the electorate, a racially charged swift boating of her nomination, whether real of perceptual, would be a major blow to the Republican party’s electoral future. Hispanic organizations, eager to see the first Hispanic supreme court justice, would be none to pleased to see Sotomayor’s nomination derailed because of the questionable racial insensitivities many conservatives have exhibited over the years. With the Hispanic population growing at a faster pace than any other demographic in the country, a major Hispanic backlash would all but cripple the GOP for the next decade.
Of course, I’d prefer if the debate over Supreme Court nominees would stay civil. Debate the arguments not the person is my belief. But at the same time, if your enemy is going to hang himself you gladly pass him the rope.
Sotomayor is by most accounts a very intelligent and credible judge. Summa Cum Laude from Princeton, editor of the Yale Law Review, and appointed to the federal circuit by George H.W. Bush. The ability to wisely and intelligently pursue justice is of course, always the most important qualification for selecting a Supreme Court Justice. But because Sotomayor clearly meets and surpasses this standard, there’s no shame in having our cake and eating it too.