Identity Politics and Sotomayor

Chris Field
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Posted: May 26, 2009 1:15 PM
National Journal's Stuart Taylor wrote about Sotomayor's views on race this weekend, before Sotomayor was nominated. Here's the opening from that great column:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life." -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in her Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law in 2001

The above assertion and the rest of a remarkable speech to a Hispanic group by Sotomayor -- widely touted as a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court -- has drawn very little attention in the mainstream media since it was quoted deep inside The New York Times on May 15.

It deserves more scrutiny, because apart from Sotomayor's Supreme Court prospects, her thinking is representative of the Democratic Party's powerful identity-politics wing. [emphasis added]

Sotomayor also referred to the cardinal duty of judges to be impartial as a mere "aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others." And she suggested that "inherent physiological or cultural differences" may help explain why "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."

So accustomed have we become to identity politics that it barely causes a ripple when a highly touted Supreme Court candidate, who sits on the federal Appeals Court in New York, has seriously suggested that Latina women like her make better judges than white males.