The Sotomayor Freakout

The Republican reaction to Sotomayor’s nomination has been truly crazy–we’ve heard that she’s an affirmative action case, that she’s a racist, and even that the pronunciation of her name is unacceptable.  The completely different treatment displayed towards her and Samuel Alito, the two of whom are quite similar on many objective metrics–Alito even praised the influence of his Italian heritage on his judging–just goes to demonstrate the racial character of many of the attacks.  Given that, it should be well-nigh impossible to go overboard in reacting to her critics.

And yet this is exactly what Amanda Marcotte has managed.  Starting from the premise that Republicans are behaving this way because they think that Sotomayor is taking a spot that should go to a white male,

Who the fuck actually thinks that Barack Obama or Sonia Sotomayor’s ascent means that there won’t be plenty of room for old white men at the hands of power, too much room really?  More to the point, what do these old white men get out of protecting the privilege of old white men so fiercely?  Senator Graham and Senator Sessions clearly think that Sotomayor is sitting in a chair they believe belongs to a white man, but what I fail to understand is why they give a fuck.

Leave aside the weird business about age–Sotomayor, Roberts and Alito are 55, 54 and 59 respectively, what in God’s name has Marcotte based this on? She continues:

it becomes clear what privilege that the bitter old white men are defending: the privilege of dumbfucks to trade in on being straight white males to be powerful and rich without ever having to learn how to think or develop reasonable social skills outside of schmoozing.

I don’t want to defend these clowns in the Senate for an instant, but can’t Ockham’s razor do some work here? Can’t we accept that Graham and his ilk are some combination of prejudiced and partisan, without going on to posit a conspiracy to preserve the “privilege of dumbfucks?”

It’s amazing.  We have circumstances on the ground that make it the headline Conservatives Prepping for Race War Against Sotomayor merely hyperbole, and yet folks on the left are still managing to overshoot into crazy territory.


Now, for some distressing facts, try Schumer Plays Up Sotomayor’s Authoritarianism.  I feel like as liberals, we’ve gotten so focused on the insanity of Republican complaints about Sotomayor that there’s been little internal debate over the quality of her jurisprudence.  I don’t know if the concerns Balko raises are definitive, but I can’t recall any Democrats I read discussing them.  I find this especially obnoxious since Obama’s promise as a civil libertarian was a substantial reason for my enthusiasm, and his record since entering office has been shoddy at best.  Perhaps what we have is a negative consequence of the weak man argument that Julian “logical fallacies” Sanchez alerted us to.


3 responses to “The Sotomayor Freakout

  1. I don’t understand your reasoning here. They ARE freaked out because Sotomayor isn’t an old white man. She’s an “old” Latina woman. They may have all sorts of justifications for their behavior but ultimately, they feel threatened because white men don’t get everything anymore.

    PS If affirmative action is the only reason for Sotomayor’s appointment, then BRING ON AA!

  2. Even if all racism is originally based in fear (and I think that’s not quite right), I don’t think it follows that anyone is acting out of fear when they do something racist. Someone who’s been exposed to racist stereotypes for most of their life will automatically apply them to people they meet, fear or no fear.

    Why are they saying this about Sotomayor? Well, they’re not going to like even the mildest liberal that the president nominates, but they want excuses. And when they looked for them, they came up with this B.S. about affirmative action because they have a lot of racists in their party. It’s the politics leading them to unleash their underlying racism. The republican party was happy to nominate Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor because they thought it would be strategic.

    Maybe this is a minor distinction, but I think it’s an important one. It’s why Marcotte is basically peddling a conspiracy theory, even though she’d be on solid ground calling the Republican response to Sotomayor racist.

    P.S. Julian Sanchez made the same point that Sotomayor would be the textbook example of affirmative action working. She had low test scores coming in to college, but then proceeded to be a super-star.

  3. Ok, I see what you’re saying. I think you’re right, racism has definitely moved from its roots into an automated system, in which people will automatically spout internalized racist ideas. However, I think Amanda Marcotte does bring up a good point that straight white males are in fear that they don’t have the skills needed to be part of the cool crowd in a world that treats people more equally than in the past. The knee-jerk reaction is that they are unable to acquire these skills (namely the skills of not being white men) but in fact, they could examine their privilege and learn to be less racist. This would allow them to be appealing/cool to more than just other white men. That would be hard, though, so it’s much easier to whine about affirmative action.