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Key Excerpt: Graham and Sotomayor on Identity Politics and "Wise Latina" Comment

Courtesy of CQ Transcriptions

SEN. GRAHAM: Now, during your time as an advocate, do you understand identity politics? What is identity politics?

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Politics based simply on a person's characteristics, generally referred to either race or ethnicity or gender, religion. It is politics based on...

GRAHAM: Do you embrace identity politics personally?

SOTOMAYOR: Personally, I don't as a judge in any way embrace it with respect to judging. As a person, I do believe that certain groups have and should express their views on whatever social issues may be out there. But as I understand the word "identity politics," it's usually denigrated because it suggests that individuals are not considering what's best for America.

GRAHAM: Do you think...

SOTOMAYOR: That's my -- and that I don't believe in. I think that whatever a group advocates, obviously, it advocates on behalf of its interests and what the group thinks it needs, but I would never endorse a group advocating something that was contrary to some basic constitutional right as it was known at the time...

GRAHAM: Do you...

SOTOMAYOR: ... although people advocate changes in the law all the time.

GRAHAM: Do you believe that your speeches properly read embrace identity politics?

SOTOMAYOR: I think my speeches embrace the concept that I just described, which is, groups, you have interests that you should seek to promote, what you're doing is important in helping the community develop, participate, participate in the process of your community, participate in the process of helping to change the conditions you live in.

I don't describe it as identity policies, because -- politics -- because it's not that I'm advocating the groups do something illegal.

GRAHAM: Well, Judge, to be honest with you, your record as a judge has not been radical by any means. It's, to me, left of center. But your speeches are disturbing, particularly to -- to conservatives, quite frankly, because they don't talk about, "Get involved. Go to the ballot box. Make sure you understand that America can be whatever you'd like it to be. There's a place for all of us."

It really did, to suggest -- those speeches to me suggested gender and racial affiliations in a way that a lot of us wonder, will you take that line of thinking to the Supreme Court in these cases of first precedent?

Read more of the exchange between Sen. Graham and Judge Sotomayor here.

By Washington Post editors  |  July 16, 2009; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Identity Politics  
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