I thought that Senate Republicans would avoid the issue of Sotomayor's race, leaving that to wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh. I was wrong. Here's Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
Graham has been critical of Sotomayor’s 2001 statement in which she suggested that a Latina woman would reach better conclusions than a white male. Her statement prompted conservatives to charge her with racism, an attack that former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) apologized for Wednesday.
Although Graham said he would not use the word racist to describe Sotomayor, he indicated that her past statements raise concerns that, as a Supreme Court justice, she may not treat white males fairly. “Being an average, everyday white guy, that doesn’t exactly make me feel good,” Graham said.
First, if Graham would read the whole speech he'd see that there's no basis for a freakout. Sotomayor was simply arguing that those who've experienced racial discrimination have a perspective that those in the majority lack. It is impossible to imagine, for example, an African-American who would have agreed with this absurd statement from the Supreme Court's 1896 upholding "separate but equal" in Plessy v. Ferguson:
We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.
Instead of fastening on one sentence from a single speech, Sen. Graham might also look to Judge Sotomayor's extensive judicial record to see if, as he fears, a white man can't catch a break from Judge Sotomayor. If he did, his fears would be relieved:
In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.) She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.
But not so absurd that Lindsey Graham won't express his concerns as "an average, everyday white guy".
Consider this remarkable statistic. In 1980, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Democrats (or at least white Carter voters) -- likewise, in 2008, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Obama voters. But whereas, in 1980, just 9 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Carter voters, 21 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Obama voters last year. Thus, Carter went down to a landslide defeat, whereas Obama defeated John McCain by a healthy margin.
In certain ways, I wonder if the GOP isn't paying a price for a strategy adopted years ago -- namely, the Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy undoubtedly won the GOP many elections over the years, but it was adopted at a time when probably less than 10 percent of the electorate was nonwhite (if minorities were allowed to vote at all), whereas now about a quarter of the electorate is. The steady drumbeat of demographic change, coupled with an inability or unwillingness to adapt to it, has steadily made the Republicans' job harder and harder.
Nevertheless, thet just can't seem to help themselves. As Julian Sanchez observes, "They really have no idea how they sound to anyone else."