FEAR AND LOATHING AND THE JUDGE
While some Republicans may try backing off their party’s shocking reaction to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the damage has already been done.
Not to her. But to the party.
Count those responsible as Rush Limbaugh, convicted felon and radio personality G. Gordon Liddy, Tom Tancredo, Mike Huckabee, Patrick Buchanan, Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove in that group. Note that none are officeholders.
But for lack of an organized Republican core, the right wing serves as the party’s voice.
Sotomayor was called a “racist” incapable of sound judicial decisions. Her enviable academic credentials as a distinguished student at Princeton and Yale got dumbed down to portray her as dim, and her very good record on the bench was characterized as anything but. Karl Rove, who never finished college, ridiculed her by saying, “I know lots of stupid people who went to Ivy League schools.”
A sound person, after listening to the diatribes, would know better than to dignify the insanity with rebuttals. In a courtroom, a decent attorney would rest his or her case after the lunatic statements because they are so ridiculous on their face.
But why sling so much mud, especially when the basis for the criticism won’t stick?
Well, it seems the real issue has little to do with Sotomayor. Tom Goldstein in the reputable ScotusBlog points out, “the absence of controversy means bankruptcy. It has to be invented by both sides, whatever the cost to the nominee personally and the integrity of the judiciary nationally.”
In other words, a good fight is good for the politics business. A knock-down, drag-out, no-holes-barred battle is even better.
Now cooler Republican heads are trying to dial back all the mean words. In the new match, the public is coaxed into believing that the Republican Party doesn’t take ownership for what those surrogates are saying because they are not elected officials. They don’t have a vote on the nomination in the Senate.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn tried to a dissociate the Senate hearing Sotomayor will receive from the types of accusations “others” in their party have made, but it may well be too late. The party has been outsourced to those “others.”
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who headed a coalition of staunch anti-immigration members (many of whom were voted out of office) had the gall to say Sotomayor “appears to be a racist” when he failed to grasp the context of a controversial statement. William Gheen said the Court “is no place for brown or Hispanic supremacists” because he got hung up on the name of an organization. Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a nativist think tank, even mocked Sotomayor’s name.
What the chastizing really tells us is that the voice of the Republican Party has been given to some people who want to be admired for how they bully a woman who has segued a sustainable argument through judicial values in conflict. But what’s really exposed is not a reaction to a Supreme Court nominee but that the “emperor has no clothes.” There is no functional Republican Party.
It is noteworthy how Republicans got out of control and could not pull together an understandable message of opposition.
We are witnessing, not dissent or criticism, but the primal scream of defeat. Simple demographics explain this.
A new wave of “second generation” Latinos may “very well end up being the nail in the proverbial coffin for the Republican Party,” claims the progressive blog Daily Kos. And a Gallup Poll of June 1 shows that only five percent of Hispanics identify as Republicans anymore. Given these patterns, winning the White House in the next two decades is increasingly problematical for Republicans.
Republican popularity is falling faster than an anchor in drydock. The faux criticisms and denunciations of Judge Sonia Sotomayor should be seen for what they really are—the waving of a defiant white flag of surrender by the same right wing that long stood in the way of building a Latino base within the party. Now they want to punish Hispanics who will keep them out of power.
Self-loathing is not a pretty sight.
[José de la Isla’s latest book, Day Night Life Death Hope, is distributed by The Ford Foundation. He writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service and is author of The Rise of Hispanic Political Power (2003). E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]