Will Sotomayor Choreography Change Outcome?

For the record, there are 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They’re the ones holding hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the US Supreme Court.


The Republicans know going in that, absent some bombshell revelation, she’ll be confirmed. That means the hearings, which will likely last the rest of the week, are about the pageantry and stage managing the Beltway is famous for.

Republicans own no franchise here. It wasn’t that long ago (was it?) that Democrats played about the same role when Samuel Alito was confirmed.


For the 19 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the televised hearings represent a chance  to show their rhetorical chops to the folks back home. Take my word for the fact that none will mentioned that all but two of them are white men. Regardless, each will play their role.

Chief among the antagonists is Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He’s been honing his act for the past several weeks, most recently on “Meet the Press”. Problem is, his blathering about justices not having empathy based on their life experience flies in the face of what Justice Alito himself has said on more than one occasion. Someone is sure to b ring up the fact that of five cases Judge Sotomayor ruled on that went to the Supreme Court, three were reversed.

Again, the Republicans will be forced to look at Alito’s record, which shows both cases he ruled on that went to the High Court were reversed . We already know the lead plaintiff in the infamous New Haven firefighters case will testify for the GOP. Former Yankee pitcher David Cone is set to testify as well. And all this for an outcome that, barring an earth shattering development, is pre-ordained.

Say what you will about President Barack Obama. In picking Sonia Sotomayor he got it right. The Republicans know it. So do the Democrats. The hearings are merely a formality. So that brings up the question of what Judge Sotomayor’s appointment to the court actually means. If people think it will change its fundamentally conservative nature, they’re in for a disappointment. The nucleus of Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Kennedy remains intact. Of this quintet, only Kennedy is an occasional wild card.

So what do the Republicans really fear? Is it the nominee herself, or is it her potential powers of persuasion? Sonia Sotomayor is no doctrinaire progressive. Her seven minute speech Monday was designed not to grate. “The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law”, says the nominee. Maybe so. Yet we all know the application of law changes over time. Otherwise, we’d still be living under Plessy vs. Ferguson, wouldn’t we? We ought to remember that the decision that found separate but equal to be constitutional was 7-1.

Anyway, that’s another argument for another day. The question as these hearings move forward is this. Can the Republicans stop Sonia Sotomayor? Should they even try?

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