The Politics of a Supreme Court Nomination

As much as people like to say that the Supreme Court is “above politics,” it really isn’t. Especially in the nominating process.

And make no mistake about it, regardless of her qualifications, Sonia Sotomayor was the politically correct pick, and I use that not in the pejorative, “political correctness” sense, but in the literal sense. President Obama made a really smart choice, politically.

Sotomayor’s a woman. Appease the Hillary voters, check.

Sotomayor has very little in the way of an abortion paper trail. (For those who don’t like clicking my links, which, judging by my blog stats, is all of you, she has only voted three times on abortion-related cases, and none of them constituted even remote challenges to Roe v. Wade. In all three, she voted with the pro-life side, although she herself is pro-choice.) Avoid turning the nomination into an abortion rights debate, check.

Sotomayor is Hispanic. And therein lies the true brilliance of the pick.

Republicans don’t want to alienate Hispanics, who, as a group, are largely thought of as up for grabs. Filibustering, or even significantly stalling Sotomayor’s confirmation, all things being equal, could certainly do just that amongst an Hispanic electorate already a bit wary of Republican immigration policy.

Pick someone Republicans are likely to confirm, while still appealing to the liberal base? Checkmate.

A smart pick, at least on paper. We’ll see how well the administration did its homework vetting her, but Sotomayor has just about everything working in her favor. Including seven Republican senators who already confirmed her once, to her current post on an appeals court.


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About the Author

Brian Eason is a University of Missouri graduate with bachelor degrees in Journalism and Political Science. He has covered Congressional elections and local government for the Columbia Missourian and worked as a general assignment reporter for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, IL. Brian has also had articles published in Roll Call.

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