SCOTUS Politics

Obama's SCOTUS pick is hardly two hours old at this point, but it's been lighting up the blogosphere.

Obama's SCOTUS pick is hardly two hours old at this point, but it's been lighting up the blogosphere. Every few minutes my RSS feed fills up with another few dozen opinions on Sonia Sotomayor, along with analyses of her previous rulings and confirmations and just about every statement she's made on record. For the serious campaigner, there's some interesting material about the spin that will be applied by both Republicans and Democrats. But, while Sotomayor's selection and nomination should be based on her judicial abilities and her capability to serve, there are obvious political implications not just for the president, but for future Republican candidates. The most obvious meme emerging from the pick is its effect on Hispanic voters, one of the fastest growing demographics and one the GOP is already fretting over. David Frum in a blog post this morning called Sotomayor a "deeply political pick" that ignored quality in favor of a justice "most likely to secure him a demographic constituency in 2008." While early opposition to the pick center on Sotomayor's allegedly too-ideological record, some of Sotomayor's previous statements suggesting that her background as a Latina woman make her more qualified than a white male judge will be too irresistible for conservatives to let pass unchecked. With 59 Democrats in the Senate, Sotomayor's confirmation is near inevitable, so the question is over how loud conservatives will be in losing. Some think that a loud conservative stink over identity politics will do Democrats more good than Republicans, especially when the argument is over a judge with a compelling life story, during a presidential administration already celebrated for its groundbreaking racial firsts. Which suggests the more interesting spin on the implications of Sotomayor's etnicity: It could hurt Republican senators as much as it can help Obama. Especially in the West, increasingly Hispanic and decreasingly Republican, candidates may be loath to lose Latino voters. So, for example, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl might be motivated to vote for Sotomayor's confirmation, making it hard for him to whip the stated Republican position into shape. For those interested in more substantive questions of Sotomayor's qualifications, both the SCOTUSblog and the New York Times have good run-downs on her notable opinions and articles.

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