Alex Massie

Obama’s Supreme Court

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I have no idea whether Sonia Sotomayor is qualified to sit on the United States Supreme Court. But, unlike Harriet Miers, she's not obviously unqualified. Having been appointed to the bench by George HW Bush is no bad thing; having been recommended by Daniel Patrick Moynihan a considerable advantage. Presuming that no scandalous relevation from her past bubbles up into the public domain one imagines she will be confirmed. This appointment, though it won't shift the balance of the court too much, poses a couple of awkward problems for the Republican party. Since I doubt they can prevent her being confirmed, one wonders whether there's any significant upside in fighting the nomination with as much vim and anger as many interest groups on the right are likely to demand?

Identity politics* and treating entire swathes of the population as client groups is not an especially bonny aspect of American politics. But it is what it is. While it's not obviously the case that just putting the first** hispanic justice on the bench necessarily advances or even much solidifies Democratic support amongst latino voters, one can easily imagine a situation in which a raucous, energetic, strident Republican attempt to derail the nomination could further alienate hispanic voters from the GOP. That might be unfair, but I wager it's how it would be perceived by latino voters. So this would seem, at first blush, to be the trap Obama has set for the Republicans: accept the nomination (assuming there's no scandal) and like it or fight it and lose and do more damage to your own interests than you would if you'd simply seethed in silence and accepted your inevitable defeat. It's one they do not need to fall into...

*On the other hand, it's noticeable that the charge of favouring "diversity" over "quality" always arises when the nominee is not a white man. Are there really no qualified women/blacks/hispanics/asians in the United States? Apparently! Or rather, maybe there are but they never get picked either!

**Sort of!

UPDATE: Tom Goldstein has a good analysis of the battle ahead.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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