Wake Up GOP: Sotomayor Is This Generation’s Jackie Robinson
New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, Posted: Jul 15, 2009
Nine years into the new millennium and conservatives and Republicans — with straight faces – insist that it is they who should define the nation’s racial debate and that it is their views that are fair and objective and part of the U.S. mainstream. Nowhere is this fallacy more evident than in their incomprehensible opposition to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In their upside-down world, extreme conservatives, including the entire right-wing talk show universe, have gone from defending racial supremacy (by opposing integration and the precepts of “equality and justice for all”) to appropriating the right to define the very words and terms of this debate. Interestingly, Senate Republicans, who espouse virtually the same views as those of their influential talk show brethren, minus the most incendiary language, have failed to denounce their hate and ultra-nationalist demagoguery.
For instance, Sen. Jeff Sessions’ questioning of Sotomayor regarding her supposed biases, and the Republican demand that she be neutral, is mind-boggling. Lest we forget (aside from his own documented extreme racial views), it is “objectivity” that permitted the U.S. Supreme Court for nearly 200 years to uphold legal segregation and discrimination. Implicit in their arguments is that the decisions by white male Supreme Court justices have always been fair and infallible, while the continued attempts to right the nation’s wrongs – by activists or judges – constitute bias and even racism.
In addition to a history refresher course, many of these Republicans and conservatives are in need of an English dictionary. They also need to pay a visit to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website to learn who the racists are and what kinds of supremacist ideologies they espouse and carry out.
None of those that have denounced Sotomayor as a “racist,” such as Newt Gingrich, are in line to win a Nobel Peace Prize for their work on race relations any time soon. And yet, more incredible is that the mainstream media continually turn to extremist talking heads for their opinions on the topic, virtually granting them an imprimatur of impartiality and fairness.
The Republican conservative effort to keep Sotomayor off the bench seems like a bizarre murder-suicide plot. Regardless of the obstacles put in her way, she will be the next Supreme Court justice. If there is to be any casualty, it will be the GOP, not she. She is a twice-Senate-confirmed moderate judge with 17 years of judicial experience, not the flaming radical they project her to be. She is boricua or Puerto Rican, part of a demographic (Latino/Latina) that is growing and has the potential to lean either Democratic or Republican.
What GOP leaders haven’t figured out is that, symbolically, Sotomayor represents this generation’s Jackie Robinson. If they had wanted to broaden their political tent, they could have celebrated her nomination, thereby projecting a welcoming party. Instead, they have questioned her impartiality and more important, her integrity. By opposing her these past two months with inflammatory rhetoric, they have poisoned relations with this expanding demographic group, ironically ensuring that the GOP will be remanded to the status of minority party for at least the next generation.
GOP leaders have the right to oppose her; the problem is that they have failed to do so respectfully. Many Republicans/conservatives have not simply defamed her, they have also unjustifiably denigrated both the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) – respected civil rights organizations she has been associated with as a professional. In the case of the NCLR, the anti-immigrant ex-Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo has likened it to the KKK. This is beyond intellectually dishonest.
This attempt by extreme conservatives to redefine the meaning of terms such as “racists” either reveals an Orwellian strategy to upend the meaning of words, or it reveals complete political illiteracy and/or lunacy. The consequence is that the GOP continues to send off the message that it is the party of the past, the party of greed, permanent war, hate, intolerance and racial supremacy. Also, because many conservatives equate ‘illegal alien’ with Mexican (or Latino) and view both as vermin and subhuman, the GOP already has a huge [recruitment] problem among these groups.
The failure of its leaders to disassociate from those extreme views means that this is the way the GOP will be perceived, long after Sotomayor dons her new Supreme Court robes.
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, writes for New America Media, including Arizona Watch. He can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com