The Brewing Fight over Judge Sotomayor

Let the Debate Begin!

The New Justice

“I’m just an ordinary woman who has had extraordinary opportunities”



From the opening salvos of the escalating debate over President Obama’s first nomination to the Supreme Court, we can be certain that a national conversation is beginning which will speak to the heart of what the Republican Party really believes about equity and justice on matters of race, class, and gender.

It is a dangerous road for the Republicans to go down, because when the smoke clears, the working-class white dupes and deluded women who have supported this party of blatant patriarchy and plutocracy may have awakened from their self-destructive entrancement with Republican politics.

The basic themes of the Republican opposition are becoming clear.  They are rooted in the arguments that have brought them success in the past: Sonia Sotomayor is an affirmative action hire; she got the job only because she is a Hispanic woman and is not intellectually up to snuff; she is a racist whose decisions will injure white men, etc.  It’s “SOS,” the same old stuff, and as always it bears no resemblance to reality.

It is obvious from the uniformity of their spiels that the Republicans are all working from the same script laying out the talking points.  And these are dictated by the spiritual and intellectual leader of the Republican Party: Rush Limbaugh, a semiliterate radio clown.  While Rush lays it out raw – calling both the President and the Judge “racists” – we hear his rhetoric echoed by the Republican intelligentsia like former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who remains a Georgia redneck in spite of his pretensions as a cosmopolitan intellectual.

Yet anyone who understands how the Republicans replaced the Dixiecrats as the dominant political party of the South will not be surprised by any of this.  As the Bancroft Prize winning southern historian Dan T. Carter rigorously documents in his seminal book “The Politics of Rage,” the Republicans won the South and dominated national politics over the last quarter century by virtue of adopting the political strategy developed by the notoriously racist Alabama governor George Wallace when he ran for President.

Hence talk about racism and judicial activism from this crowd is tantamount to the pot maligning the kettle.  It is the same kind of psychological projection that characterizes the Southern white male’s obsession with black men molesting white women while they had engaged in the wholesale harassment and rape of black women for centuries.   

Then as now, the greatest fear of white racists is that people of color will treat white men the way we have been treated.  And if they really believe the biblical injunction “You will reap what you sow,” they must be scared to death.  For as Thomas Jefferson said while watching his slave’s labor in his fields: “I shudder when I reflect upon the fact that God is just.”  This fear is what really drives the attack on judge Sotomayor.

Playthell Benjamin

Commentaries on the Times

Harlem, New York

May 28, 2009

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