By now, you would think that the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party, and its loyalists, would have gotten the message. Despite a resounding defeat at the polls in last November’s presidential election it seems many on the right are in a state of denial as has become clear as the Senate debates the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Listening to some Republican Senators reminds me of the fictional character Senator John Yerkes Iselin in the classic “The Manchurian Candidate,” played brilliantly by James Gregory, as a demagogue who keeps changing his tune about the number of supposed “card carrying” members of the Communist Party in the chamber. It seems on any given day a core of Republicans in the Senate will come up with any reason to oppose Judge Sotomayor, short of calling her a menace to jurisprudence.
The display we are witnessing has far greater implications than the admittedly important appointment to the nation’s highest court. In many ways the bloc of conservative Republicans voicing their opposition to the nomination of Judge Sotomayor, represent the last white resistance to a multicultural America. They are the last vestige of white, male supremacy that has its roots in American slavery, Jim Crow and the Dixiecrat wing of the Democratic Party. They are not opposing this highly qualified and vetted judge; they are really expressing outrage that the privilege they have grown accustomed to, is slipping away before their very eyes. These men never believed the nation would elect a Black President, let alone that a Black President would appoint a Latina to the Supreme Court. If this is change we can believe in, it is a nightmare of the worst kind for the overinflated egos of these men who believe they are the embodiment of virtue in our nation.
Someone in the Republican Party needs to wake up and get a clue, and fast. The chest thumping and bravado on display on the Senate floor is writing their own epitaph. It is one thing to have legitimate differences on matters of policy and law, but the trivial nature of the opposition to Sotomayor is rooted in something much deeper. It smells of bias, it reeks of racism. When it is all over the Republican Party will have to account for its deliberate mudslinging and answer to the Latino electorate for the manner in which some of its most senior members opposed this historic nomination. You would have thought they would have opened the record and learned from the shameful way Dixiecrats opposed the nomination of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black appointed to the Court. The ugliness of that era should be enough for anyone who truly calls himself an American to seek higher ground.
Sadly, not even the threat of desertion by Latino voters will compel these Republicans to do some soul searching. They will continue to wallow in the petty, egged on by a network of talking heads that will fuel the legion of hate mongers who wrap their ugly rhetoric in the blanket of freedom of speech. Just witness the juvenile behavior of CNN’s self-righteous Lou Dobbs who has used the airwaves to stir anti-Obama sentiments by inferring that the President is not an American citizen. Once considered a fairly level headed, business journalist, Dobbs is seduced by the bright lights of celebrity and is now a caricature. Though he is spreading a malicious rumor that he know is false, his very presence on the air lends the lie undeserving legitimacy. It is a tried and true practice of the right: lie, lie again and lie some more and then call the truth a lie. For loyalists on the right-fringe, it simply reinforces their uninformed perspectives.
It would be easy to look past this moment, particularly since Judge Sotomayor appears to have sufficient votes for confirmation. We need to be on guard. It is not a coincidence that hate groups are restless, race baiting is common in Internet chatter, and polls still show divergent views between Blacks and whites, despite the historic election of Obama. So long as men who are suppose to represent the highest ideals of our nation engage in blatantly racist politics, our nation will fall further behind in the world community. The Republican Party must decide soon what its core message is. So long as the GOP allows the right to be the face of the party it will be further marginalized and eventually wither away. It desperately needs women and men of courage to take a stand and rid the party of its extreme faction. Some people believe that is impossible but I point to the courageous contingent from Mississippi that took on the Democrats in 1964. When will real Republicans be “tired of being sick and tired?”