Why Obama Picked Sotomayor
By Edward Schumacher-Matos
I should be giddy about Sonia Sotomayor, but I can’t stop thinking about Alberto Gonzales.
Former President George W. Bush’s former attorney general was supposed to be the first Hispanic to be nominated to the Supreme Court. We Hispanics, even Democrats, were so proud of him. Sotomayor rose from Puerto Rican poverty in the Bronx, but Gonzales had a similar trajectory, rising from Mexican American poverty in San Antonio. Sotomayor went to Yale Law School. Gonzales went to Harvard. But then he fell into disgrace. He condoned torture and fired nine U.S. attorneys on political grounds. It is presumably because of an ongoing investigation of those firings that he can’t find a job. But I and many successful Hispanics I know don’t believe it. The good old boys in Texas would have protected one of their own and at least given him an income. Gonzales was the expendable wetback who could be put out to dry.
To be sure, lots of Latinos succeed, and most Americans are happy for them. Sotomayor is clearly more qualified than Gonzales and seems to be more ethical as well. For a few days, at least, I want to believe in her, like I did in Gonzales. After that, I will judge her like I would anyone else. The Republican attack machine will surely find flaws to exploit and judicial rulings to question. She is, after all, human. I just hope she didn’t do anything that will break my heart. And that, for her sake, she doesn’t find herself abandoned and alone.
The Republicans are right about one thing: Obama picked Sotomayor in part because she is a Latina. She punches both the female and Hispanic tickets. Good! That is the way it should be, not in the sense of filling strict quotas, but in the sense of loosely trying to have diversity on the court that reflects the country.
The court rules on issues crucial to all Americans. All of us, including judges, are captives of our backgrounds and the lens through which we see the world. The best we can hope for is that each judge individually attempts to be objective in interpreting and applying the Constitution, and that, collectively, enough backgrounds are represented to achieve the most genuinely objective group decision possible.
Sotomayor brings to the court an objectivity and truth -- or what Obama calls “empathy”-- colored by being Hispanic, just as John Roberts has the empathy of a white Catholic male from New Jersey. Both honorably try to overcome their biases, but neither totally will. Now that Hispanics make up 15 percent of the population, we deserve to have at least one among the nine judges on the Supreme Court who wears our lens.
So, does this mean that Sotomayor will somehow favor Hispanics from the bench? Based on her record, it seems she won’t. In what may be her most controversial decision, for example -- that in the case of a white firefighter in New Haven who claims he wasn’t promoted because of reverse discrimination favoring blacks -- a Hispanic firefighter was passed over for promotion, too. She ruled against the promotions.
| May 27, 2009; 4:15 PM ET
Categories: Schumacher-Matos | Tags: Edward Schumacher-Matos
Save & Share: Previous: First Thoughts on Sotomayor
Next: Sotomayor's Deliberate Choice of Words
Posted by: kchses1 | May 27, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mamamay | May 27, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LaMaca | May 28, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: freesmilesinc | May 28, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: soundslikedrums | May 29, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: the_node | May 29, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ekim53 | May 29, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: againstthecurrents | May 30, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: melitz | May 30, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: silusdogood | May 30, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: hdc77494 | May 31, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mavericktradingco | May 31, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: obamasnoosama | June 1, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: spamsux1 | June 1, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: combat18 | June 1, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aepelbaum | June 1, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: opp88 | June 2, 2009 2:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MPatalinjug | June 2, 2009 6:07 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | June 2, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.