Monday, July 13, 2009

Race, Guns & Abortion v. Sotomayor

The Senate Republicans will debilitate any prospect for a relevant Republican Party by pursuing a strategy of pandering to the GOP base in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States. The irony of this pandering strategy is that it is based on the “Southern Strategy” of racially polarizing voters as the country becomes more racially diverse. As Hispanic populations are increasing dramatically in the south the irony becomes only more vivid.

Yet Senate Republicans plan to confront Judge Sotomayor in the worst way strategically for the relevancy of the GOP, despite the inevitability of her confirmation to the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans should check their tone and demeanor so as not come across as a child throwing a tantrum over taking a bath. Eventually the kid is going into the tub; and Judge Sotomayor is going to the SCOTUS.

Of the top ten states seeing a large increase in their Hispanic populations, seven are in the south. They are (state: current Hispanic population by percent; and percentage increase between 1990 and 2007):

North Carolina: 6.6%; 670%
Arkansas: 5.3%; 644%
Tennessee: 3.8%; 588%
Georgia: 7.7%; 565%
Alabama: 3.8%; 485%
South Carolina: 3.6%; 402%
Kentucky: 2.2%; 309%

The growth trend is unmistakable. With the 2010 census around the corner these numbers are sure to increase considerably. Growth trends like these should dispel any idea in GOP circles that the Southern Strategy remains viable. Yet, judging from the Sotomayor witness list offered by Republicans in the Senate it appears the GOP is not yet ready to give up the strategy. Like a teen hooked on glue, the GOP is not ready to stop huffing the right wing.

The witness list being called by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee is painfully revealing. It includes Mr. Frank Ricci of Ricci v. DeStefano; Sandy Froman of the National Rifle Association that has called Judge Sotomayor hostile to the Second Amendment; and Charmaine Yoest, chairman of Americans United for Life that has stated Judge Sotomayor has a pro-abortion agenda. That race, guns and fetuses is what Republican Senators have to offer in these important hearings says simply that the GOP does not have much to offer the country other than exhausted pabulum.

With the announcement that Mr. Ricci will testify against Judge Sonia Sotomayor in her confirmation hearings it is clear that the GOP is reaching into its tired bag of electoral polarization tricks. Mr. Ricci was the lead plaintiff in Ricco v. DeStafano upon which the Supreme Court recently ruled by reversing an appellate court decision endorsed by SCOTUS nominee Judge Sotomayor. The SCOTUS ruled that white firefighters were unfairly denied promotions by New Haven, CT because of their race. This ruling annuls white grievances over minority claims to victimhood. No longer can white males complain about the culture of victimhood as they’ve joined up.

Red Elephant has sat through enough campaign polling presentations to know the reverse discrimination question is going to yield hard to resist survey data for Republican challenger campaigns in 2010. More than likely the correctly worded question, “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Candidate A if you knew they supported reverse discrimination of white job applicants” is going to test a minimum of 60 percent less likely from survey respondents in white majority districts across the country. A 60% threshold in a survey makes an issue dominant. Having a 60 percent issue is like having 500 horsepower under the hood, you got to stomp the pedal.

As the GOP is desperate for wins in 2010, the probability is high that consultants will be cranking out paid messages that seek to inflame white voters’ economic anxiety. One need only refer to the Jesse Helms (R-NC) v. Harvey Gant (D) contest in 1990 when the Helms campaign aired the “Hands” spot that used affirmative action to polarize the electorate, accompanied by the image of a white male crumbling a job rejection letter. The 2010 version won’t be much different, “You needed that job and were the best qualified. But you didn’t get it because the employer feared a lawsuit from minorities who didn’t get hired.” Key the white guy ripping up a job rejection letter. This temptation should be resisted, particularly by the candidates presented with such a strategy by their consultants.

In their questions of Judge Sotomayor, Senate Republicans should hearken back to spirit of GOP advocacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed racial segregation when over 80% of Republicans in the House and Senate voted for passage, versus a little more than 60% of Democrats in either chamber. Senate Republicans should be for Judge Sotomayor because of what she personifies about America’s ideals (meritorious advancement and rule of law among them). Further, her opinions as a judge do not offer many opportunities to challenge her as there is nothing radical about her record. Senate Republicans should not oppose Sotomayor on those few issues that pluck the Republican base responsive chord. This approach is shortsighted and will only seal GOP irrelevancy in a demographically changing nation.

To this point, there are 36 Senate seats up for election in 2010. Of those, Republicans could pick up four seats if they successfully defend what they already have. Defense of those GOP seats could prove tougher with a hard-line against Sotomayor, particularly in Florida with Hispanics making up 22% of the population. The four reasonable opportunities the GOP has to increase in the Senate are Colorado, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Illinois. Those states have Hispanic populations of 20%, 4% (making the Hispanic vote less of a factor, but Sen. Specter will need every vote he can get), 12% and 14% respectively. Colorado and Connecticut have Democratic incumbents (Senators Dodd and Bennett) who can do much to ingratiate themselves with Hispanic voters in their states by vigorously supporting Judge Sotomayor even though they are not on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It would be better for Republicans to treat Sotomayor warmly. Such treatment of Sotomayor will put pressure on President Obama to pick a very liberal nominee for the next SCOTUS opening. A far left pick next time around will give the GOP a real opportunity to strike a contrast between itself and Democrats.

Unfortunately this opportunity will be squandered for the immediate satisfaction of Republican pandering to the core voters of the Republican Party. After all, endless direct mail fundraising solicitations can be mailed and millions in contributions deposited off the headlines that guns, race and fetuses will generate from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. So it seems that the Angry White Firefighter is too appealing to Republicans not to manipulate. Hispanics will be watching Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings and making a judgment about whether the Republican Party is a place they can ever call home as its population in the U.S. grows. Judging from the Republican’s Sotomayor witness list it doesn’t look good that Hispanics will be dropping by the GOP homestead on Election Day.

1 comment:

Phebe said...

It makes me deeply unhappy to see meritocracy progressively dumped for a reverse-discrimination quota system. We have been suffering under this bad system for 45 years since Johnson junked meritocracy, and it only gets worse, as the New Haven case shows. I wonder if you are aware how much this issue about Sotomayor is disliked in conservative forums around the Internet. Her plain reverse racism is the main focus of anger in the forums I watch.

However, I see that the actual message in your post is that it's going to happen for sure, for certain, Sotomayor will take her seat on the Court, so why not go gracefully into that good night.

It's an interesting position and worth thought.