Mom and I discussed it a bit over dinner last night, but I'm still a little surprised to see how serious some conservatives are: given a choice, the right seems determined to pick the painful path of opposing Sonia Sotomayor in as loud and ugly a manner as they can muster. No need to even bring matches... they'll set themselves on fire, thank you very much.
Bring it on? Oh no... it's already been broughten.
Peggy Noonan, for my money, lays out the case that needs to be made: that Republicans can't win by pulling out flmethrowers, throwing around words like "racist" or (a recent fave) calling La Raza a "new KKK". Did Judge Sotomayor say something terrible by suggesing different people with different life experiences might bring different insights, maybe even better ones to particular cases? No, she said something obvious, even necessary about how we enshrine a notion of "objectivity" that isn't real (one that, in another context, conservatives themselves see - when we dispute whether "liberal media bias" is "objectivity" of another sort).
I said going into this that I thought we were about to get a summer of more heat than light on the Supreme Court debate... but I didn't imagine we'd get all of summer in one week. Conservatives managed to race through the gamut of discussion so quickly - that's our new internet culture for ya - that there was barely a moment to even contemplate "let's try and be civil" before "oh, never mind, let's just run in guns blazing" took over. By all means... carp about how to pronounce her name. Sling all sorts of ugly charges while piously complaining about past treatment of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. You could raise the discourse... or you could not even try.
In our discussion last night, I said, honestly, that I'm not sure Sonia Sotomayor is the best pick... but that won't matter now, since we're not about to get hearings or a public discussion that might illuminate issues that actually matter - her judicial reasoning, her thinking on key issues (and I don't mean abortion or even guns), her approach to the law. As Noonan says, Republicans do themselves a disservice these days by doing so little to rein in their worst impulses (even as she, weakly, tries to blame Democrats and the Bork confirmation as the moment it all went so wrong). Republicans need a general public that can see the way they whink about legal issues; a Supreme Court confirmation would be a great moment to educate people and discuss ideas. Instead we get the latter day equivalent of "Goody Proctor Is A Witch!"
The failure to manage any coherent, thoughful response on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor (as obvious as it was when Obama announced her, it's just ten times clearer now that her confirmation is all but a done deal), probably just restates the obvious: that the Republicans are in serious collapse, rebuilding will take years and involve some significant change. It's the kind of thing I remember from the Reagan years, when stopping Bork - who should, really have not even been nominated - took so much energy, and left such scars, that it was clear something was wrong within the Democratic party. It took years, and not a small amount of painful rethinking, to rebuild our way to Bill Clinon in the nineties, and our reestablished dominance in Congress today. I'd love to say I find myself enjoying the Republican collapse... but I just keep thinking, "oh no... not another teen movie."