Tue, 02 Jun 2009 17:49:36 +0000 – By Deneen BorelliFellow, Project 21,The National Center for Public Policy
With the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama seems to be playing identity politics by making her heritage more important than her experience. So far, most of the news coverage has focused on her ethnic background and that has trumped reports about her experience.
Unfortunately, this is distracting the public from the most important consideration -- whether or not she is the best person for the job.
Conservative Republicans are feeling challenged by the nomination of Sotomayor, fearing a political backlash from the Hispanic vote, an important and growing demographic group, if they aggressively dispute her nomination. Moreover, it seems that she has the filibuster proof majority.
Given the political risk and poor likelihood of having any impact, some believe it would be a waste of political capital to oppose her nomination. While there is some validity to these concerns, we need to recognize that the left will take advantage of any opportunity to politicize opposing views regardless of their merit.
In today's politically charged environment even a Miss America beauty pageant becomes a battleground for political ideas. For instance Carrie Prejean, Miss California USA 2009, became a target of liberal attacks because she openly expressed her opposition to gay marriage.
Fear of controversy and political retribution should not dictate the decision of our elected representatives. These are the risks that come with the political territory.
With this in mind, conservative Republicans should approach Sotomayor's nomination like any other nominee -- from a position of principle. Race, age or sex should not interfere with their responsibility to their office and party.
Consequently, during the nomination process, they should question Sotomayor about her experience, judicial philosophy and past rulings. Importantly, conservative Republicans should not shy away from asking her to explain her positions on the Second Amendment, abortion and judicial activism.
Senators should take into consideration the Ricci case, in which civil service test scores of New Haven, CT firefighters were discarded because the scores did not follow quota requirements. This racial preference case will be coming up in the Supreme Court and by all speculation, Sotomayor could find herself being repudiated by her prospective colleagues.
In my opinion, the bigger risk is the loss of the Republican conservative brand identity that has served them well in the past. Sotomayor's nomination should be an opportunity to highlight the contrast between the beliefs of liberals and conservatives. If the public can't distinguish between the beliefs of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and the Senate Republicans at the end of Sotomayor's nomination process, then conservative Republicans have lost significantly more than a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.