Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Not So Dumb

On the one hand, you have a group of people who are arguing in favor of supporting a candidate for the Supreme Court. They point out that this candidate graduated Summa Cum Laude from Princeton University (accompanied by an undergraduate award for outstanding academic merit). They mention that the candidate went on to Yale Law School where she became editor of the Yale Law Journal and earned a Juris Doctorate degree. Further, they add, after graduation the candidate worked for five years as a Prosecutor, taking on challenging cases including many murders. Her advocates remind you that after leaving the prosecutors' office the candidate took a partnership in a lucrative private practice, specialising in intellectual property law. The candidate has been an appeals court judge for 12 years, where her notable cases included a dramatic intervention to end an ongoing baseball strike, and was a federal judge for 6 years before that.

She was also, as her supporters have not yet gotten around to mentioning, an adjunct professor of law for both New York University and Columbia Law Schools. She is a trustee of Princeton University. Her supporters point out that in addition to all of these CLEARLY relevant displays of intellect and experience, the candidate also happens to be the child of a widowed mother raised in modest circumstances whose achievements are all the more impressive for not having been backed by familial wealth or priviledge. In summary, her supporters conclude, the candidate has met or surpassed every conceivable qualification for the Supreme Court posting for which she is being nominated - in terms of proven academic merit, in terms of depth and breadth of legal experience, in terms of applied legal reasoning, and finally in terms of her ability to provide a valuable new perspective based on her unusual-for-the-Court but not unusual-for-America background.

On the other hand, those who oppose her suggest that might be kind of dumb.

I'm working REALLY hard to find any way of thinking about that particular argument that doesn't rely upon Sotomayor's opponents being blatantly sexist and/or racist. The only thing I can come up with so far is that maybe they were just totally misinformed about her actual credentials. But that seems unlikely since she's been talked about as a likely pick for quite some time.

And so, I am at a loss. I have no desire to "play the race card" still less "the gender card" (although I would gently suggest that there's something unseemly about talking of females as if they represent a small minority before whom the Democrats quaver when in fact we're a slight statistical MAJORITY...) since someone somewhere decided that even raising the possibility of sexism or racism automatically invalidates any other arguments you may make... So I'm not sure where to go here.

Perhaps I could just politely suggest that those who suggest she is somehow an intellectual lightweight could point to specific opinions or writings that they consider in some way deficient?

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