Judging by what we are witnessing during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, you would think that someone had put a bounty on the heads all white men. The venom that the Republican Senators are displaying is even crass by today’s gutter politics. Led by Senator Jeff Sessions, who is obviously still smarting from his debacle of a nomination to the judiciary, the contingent of Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah seem intent on defending the “purity” of conservative white male opinion against someone who they obviously consider is an “uppity” Latina. Their disdain for Judge Sotomayor could not have come across any clearer than the line of questioning from Sessions, who in every which way possible, tried to get Judge Sotomayor to contradict herself as she defended statements she had made in the past concerning the perspective she brings to the bench as a Latina.
It was almost comical that in their opening remarks these same Senators put on the façade of objectivity and disingenuously welcomed Judge Sotomayor before the committee. Senator Sessions declared that he hoped this confirmation hearing would be the best ever, and Senator Graham acknowledged the inevitability of Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation unless she “imploded” during the hearing. It was like the executioner extending a welcome hand to the condemned.
It was quite evident by the pettiness displayed in the room that Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications do not concern conservatives on the panel. What disturbs them is that the prevailing right wing, white male perspective of the Court will be disturbed. Instead of focusing on the substance of some of her past work, the Republicans on the panel chose to engage in a juvenile game of she said/he said. Their focus was on a statement the judge had made when she correctly pointed out that her experiences as a Latina would inform her decision-making on the court. For making that very honest self-assessment, Judge Sotomayor has come under much criticism from Republicans for what they charge is her judicial activism.
Therein is the hypocrisy of it all.
For these Senators to suggest that over time the Supreme Court was not been influenced by the personal views, good and bad, of the Justices that have served is to simply deny the truth. Did the Court reach its conclusion in Plessy outside of those Justices racial animus and prevailing social mores of the nation at that time? Of course not. Judge Sotomayor is correct, Justices are human and they bring their strengths and weaknesses with them when they serve. To think that these men and women reach their opinions in a vacuum is as foolish as the argument that merit drives economic opportunity and affirmative action is reverse discrimination. We have benefited from and suffered the consequences for the very human decisions of the Court through the course of American history.
What is really on display in the hearing room is the last stand for conservative, white male domination in the nation’s capital. It appears that the election of Barack Obama has sent these people over the deep end and now they are panicked. Judging by the contempt for Sotomayor displayed on their faces, they all appear invested in some sort of conspiracy theory that has them marked for extinction by America’s emerging majority. Perhaps it is some sort of guilt driven reflex. Maybe they fear the manner in which they have operated will now come back to bite them. Whatever the source of their angst, their hypocrisy is being laid bare before the American public. Their “justice is blind” mantra carries no weight considering how often conservatives have blinded justice during their tenure on the Court. After all, they have had a good run hording as much wealth and opportunity as they could.