The confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina and third woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme court should be regarded with a deep sense of satisfaction by all lovers of justice in this country. At the same time, the conduct of some of the Republican Senators and other political and media figures in the debate that preceded Ms. Sotomayor’s confirmation, first by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and then by the full Senate, will go down as an ugly stain on the politics of our era. The fact that only nine Republican senators out of 40 voted to confirm such an obviously qualified candidate is only part of the disgraceful story.
The lead role in the persecution of Sotomayor was played by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions. He had the gall to intimate that Ms. Sotomayor is an anti-white racist, for daring to say that a “wise Latina” judge might make better decisions. Sessions, an ignorant man if there ever was one, himself was once defeated for confirmation as a Federal District Court judge (a Reagan nomination) when people who had worked with him when he was a U.S. attorney testified about his history of grossly insensitive racist comments and attacks on the civil rights movement as “un-American”. His attempt to characterize Ms. Sotomayor as a Latina racist is the continuation of a decades-long pattern. That most of the Republicans in the Senate went along with this method of challenging Sotomayor’s candidacy shows what the Republican Party is rapidly becoming. It is in line with the smear attacks against the Democrats’ efforts to craft a health care reform bill, which has now moved into the terrain of actually threatening physical violence. It is a continuation of the long campaign by the ultra-right against Latino immigrants and their descendents, and the lunatic “birther” campaign to prove that President Obama is not a born citizen. This is creating a perfect storm of obscurantism, bigotry, hatred and potential violence, which takes on a more and more fascist tinge. We have to fight these people as hard as we can.