Supreme court nominations & identity politics battle


by Sunny
27th May, 2009 at 5:38 am    

If you haven’t heard yet, Barack Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to the Supreme Court. She’s not only the first Hispanic woman to be nominated (and most likely appointed) but also one of the very few women.

The New York Times reports:

In restaurants, homes and offices across the country, Hispanics responded to Judge Sotomayor’s selection with a puff of pride, some gratitude and considerable discussion. In interviews in Miami, Los Angeles and New York, many said this kind of recognition from Washington — Democratic or Republican — was long overdue given the growing size of the Hispanic voting bloc.

Some of those interviewed said Hispanic appointments mattered less than issues affecting them directly, like immigration and the economy.

Another article looks at the risk to Republicans in opposing her nomination:

But some Republicans warned that the image of Republicans throwing a roadblock before an historic nomination could prove politically devastating. Republicans saw a dip in Hispanic support in 2008, after eight years in which former President George W. Bush and his political aides had made a concerted effort to increase the Republican appeal to Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing group of voters.

Matthew Dowd, another one-time adviser to Mr. Bush, said that in 2000, he calculated that Republicans needed to win 35 percent of Hispanics to beat Democrats. He said that given the steady increase in the number of Hispanic voters, he now believed Republicans needed to win a minimum of 40 percent to be competitive with Democrats.

Here’s a brief view on identity politics – you can’t escape it. A person may want to be identified by their race, gender, class, type of car, profession or religion (or lack of), but people generally like identities. Sometimes the more the better (in my case).

The most important issue is whether Ms Sotomayor is suitable for the post. Obama thinks he is, and that’s good enough for me. But there’s also no doubt that her identity matters – mostly because it points to the fact that America’s ruling class is finally becoming more diverse in race and gender and reflecting the society it serves.

This isn’t always necessary, but it’s important to understand that for many minorities who don’t feel connected to ‘the establishment’ or feel they have a stake in the country, representation from those groups does go some way in making them feel that they do have some sort of a stake. It doesn’t for everybody, but it does for some. The fact that a woman from the projects in the Bronx can be nominated to the Supreme Court will undoubtedly be inspirational to some.

Obama played up the fact that she comes from a poor, immigrant family from Puerto Rico, who was enveloped in “the American dream”. I think it’s a narrative that the left would be good to understand and work with.

Lastly, she also grew up reading and being inspired by Nancy Drew. I can relate to that :)


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Filed in: British Identity,Culture,Race politics






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  1. pickles

    New blog post: Supreme court nominations & identity politics battle http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4656




  1. Rayyan — on 27th May, 2009 at 5:47 am  

    It’s like the West Wing and Supreme Court Justice Bill Adama, I mean, Roberto Mendoza..

  2. billericaydicky — on 27th May, 2009 at 9:27 am  

    What this appointment highlights is the increasing importance of the Spanish speaking vote in America. By 2040 Spanish will be the major language of the country narrowly ahead of English and both parties know this.

    It is important to realise the differences between the different Spanish groups in the country. The majority of Cubans live in Florida and tend to be anti Castro and conservative being anti communist and doing well in business.

    There has always been a large Spanish speaking community from when the country was a part of Mexico until the annexation of California,New Mexico,Nevada and others parts after the war of 1848. It is only necessary to look at the Spanish names to realise the penetration of the Spanish.

    If the Democrats can permanently detach even a proportion of these voters then the Republicans could be out of office for as long as the five terms of Roosevelt and Truman.

  3. Ravi Naik — on 27th May, 2009 at 10:05 am  

    Sunny, there is no denying that there was identity politics involved, but it is unfair not to mention that she deserves that post on merit alone: she went to Princeton (ranked 1st) and Yale despite being raised in a poor neighbourhood by a single mother, and has an impressive legal career that spans decades.

  4. Jai — on 27th May, 2009 at 10:21 am  

    Obama played up the fact that she comes from a poor, immigrant family from Puerto Rico, who was enveloped in “the American dream”.

    Just to expand on what Ravi mentioned above, Obama also emphasised the fact that she has more experience than any of her impending colleagues did when they first joined the Supreme Court themselves.

  5. Leon — on 27th May, 2009 at 10:58 am  

    It’s like the West Wing and Supreme Court Justice Bill Adama, I mean, Roberto Mendoza..

    Heh that was my first thought too. :D

  6. Sunny — on 27th May, 2009 at 1:50 pm  

    I didn’t mean she didn’t have the experience. I sort of mentioned it, and she deserves it on that basis (though Republicans will undoubtedly hit back).

    I was just more interested in the identity politica angle.

    And I’m shocked bill has said something on-topic and coherent.

  7. billericaydicky — on 30th May, 2009 at 10:12 am  

    Sunny,

    I am always coherent, as well as being the most interesting person posting here! One of George Orwell’s most important aphorisms was ” Liberty, if it is anything, is the right to be told things that you do not want to hear”.

    PP isn’t as bad as Socialist Unity which is full of brain dead Marxists debating how to bring about the socialist revolution and usher in the workers paradise. It still hasn’t dawned on them wherever their brand of politics has been tried it has ended up in starvation, gulags and mass murder. I keep pointing this out to them but they won’t listen!

  8. blah — on 30th May, 2009 at 10:20 am  

    billericay dicky
    ” By 2040 Spanish will be the major language of the country narrowly ahead of English and both parties know this.”

    Or alternatively there will be a large percentage of English speaking Americans with Latino backgrounds. Unless you imagine Spanish speakers are going to miraculously maintain their language generation unto generation depite living in an English speaking culture as well as getting non Spanish speakers to speak the language.

    My apologies for contradicting the most interesting person on here

  9. damon — on 30th May, 2009 at 2:03 pm  

    I picked up this book in the States a few years ago.
    It’s called ”Mexifornia: a State of Becoming”.
    http://www.amazon.com/Mexifornia-Becoming-Victor-Davis-Hanson/dp/1893554732
    I found it raised some really interesting (and difficult for a liberal) issues. (Have a look at the Amazon synopsis and some of the reader reviews).

    He’s from the right (and from what I’ve read of him writing about Iraq … the nutty right), but I thought his book was measured and certainly spoke to a large constituency. (Even if much of that constituency is the ”Save or State” types like these guys in California).
    http://www.saveourstate.org/vforums/forumdisplay.php?f=78

    The author grew up in a small town in California’s Central Valley (which is a huge agricultural area drawing migrants across the border for generations).

    He just talks a lot of anecdotal stuff, and about how things have changed since he was in high school.
    About the rise odf identity politics amongst parts of the Latino community (particularly in higher education.. ”La Raza” they call it).
    And spending time looking through that right wing Save our State website (over a year ago now) there was plenty of evidence that they highlighted of this ”La Raza” movement being real (if still small).

    BTW, I’m not advocating the views of the author of ”Mexifornia” or the ”Save our State” people.
    They challenge me just a bit, and I think they are worth reading as a test of one’s own liberalism.

  10. Shamit — on 30th May, 2009 at 6:44 pm  

    You have to wonder how she is the most eminent jurist as many has claimed when 60% of her opinions have been overturned by superior courts in the Country. That’s a fact.

    She hardly ever gives any reasoning for her decision and she might be one Associate Justice nominee who could have her appeals court judgement be overturned on a constitutional and equal rights issue while going through the nomination process.

    While this appointment may do Pres. Obama a world of good especially in ensuring the Latino vote base you can’t help but wonder whether Judge Sotomayor is the right kind of justice for the Suprement Court. But Obama gets a 10 out of 10 for turning the appointment to his advantage.

  11. Vikrant — on 31st May, 2009 at 7:17 am  

    Or alternatively there will be a large percentage of English speaking Americans with Latino backgrounds. Unless you imagine Spanish speakers are going to miraculously maintain their language generation unto generation depite living in an English speaking culture as well as getting non Spanish speakers to speak the language.

    blah,

    You obviously haven’t spent much time in America have you? It is imperative to know Spanish if you live in California the border states!

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