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Sotomayor: why the minority card is a bad play

warning: majorly politically incorrect content. If you can’t deal, bugger off now.

I haven’t decided yet if I support her nomination or not, and I recognize that it doesn’t really matter. However, there are a few things that have been brought up (out of context or not, as a politician, they count) that deserve addressing.

The biggest is the whole idea of her statements that basically sum up to “I’m a minority, so I bring a minority point of view to my findings”. Couple of points:

  1. Duh. How stupid do you think people are? Of COURSE your upbringing affects your point of view.
  2. DOH! In some cases playing the “I’m a minority” card may make political sense, but be realistic: at the national level, you CAN’T expect your opponents to not use it against you. Major political blunder. (As Sotamayor admitted on tape after making one of the stupid statements.)
  3. Choosing to identify with a minority population, then playing on the differences is divisive, not unifying.

OK, so we all know that Sotamayor is a minority. The question is: why does it matter. Right now, Obama is making a huge effort on his world tour to downplay the differences between national cultures – in a large part in an attempt to undo the damage done by Bush’s “We’re Different, We’re better, Our way is the right way” approach. Personally, I think this is a good thing (Obama, not Bush). By focusing on common interests, we set the stage for cooperation and can set aside our differences (at least for now). This is the real problem that I have with Sotamayor. Instead of taking the approach of “I’m a bit different, but it doesn’t really matter, we’re mostly the same”, her rhetoric seems to be “I’m different, and that difference makes me better”. This is a kickback to the Bush approach, and I find it concerning.

I will be the first to admit that her opponents have done their best to play these statements up, and play them out of context – with a good degree of success. Despite that, the fact that she has even voiced these opinions indicates that there is SOME basis for their running them up the flagpole. Much as I despise Rush Limbaugh, I have to agree with his observation that if a white guy had made equivalent comments, he’d be lambasted, and have absolutely no chance of a political career. As a strong proponent of equality, I think we should apply the same measure to everyone. Separate but equal doesn’t work in schools, and in cases like this it fails too.

I fully expect our supreme court justices to bring their personal background and history to the bench. Only a fool would expect otherwise. However, the whole “I’m a minority, and that makes me special” is worrisome. It may be worrisome enough to justify not confirming her. I would be very surprised if this happens, but I can’t say I would be upset if it did. When selecting Supreme Court justices, I would tend to be very cautiouse, and anyone that even hinted at the opinion that a particular minority (any minority) had a more enlightened point of view, or provided a special insight would move them into “hey wait a minute” category. Personally, I would prefer my Supreme Court Justices to be solidly in the “Yeah. This person Works” category….


One Response

  1. I don’t fault Sotomayor for the rhetoric; it’s a product of the culture (as you rightly pointed out). It’s going to take a few generations to get beyond the divisiveness that has pervaded our culture since… well, since just about forever. I think that Obama and the messages that he is trying to put forward are a good first step to that paradigm shift, but it’s going to take a while for “yeah, we’re different, but so what” attitude to take hold.

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