On Sotomayor: Right-Wing Hate Targets American-Dream Judge

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is the American Dream judge by any American standard — someone who started without advantages, worked hard, excelled often and rose to great heights through diligence and talent. Yet here comes the right-wing hate machine, desperate to foment fear, at times appealing to racism, determined to defame a great American and destroy what is left of the sectarian Republican Party.

Let’s be clear. The public face of the Republican Party on this issue, as on most, is: America's most brilliant radio entrepreneur, Rush Limbaugh, devoutly admired by supporters but viewed as an extremist buffoon by millions of swing voters. Newt Gingrich, America's most ambitious politician, seeking to go for the political jugular but unable to resist the gutter-ball. And Tom Tancredo, who has done more than any living Republican to turn Hispanics to the Democrats through the manner in which he conducted the immigration attack.

Let’s be clear about this: Serious and thoughtful Republicans can find legitimate policy and intellectual grounds from which to vote against Sotomayor, from their perspective, if they choose. I don’t agree with this position, but it is legitimate for those who hold it. If they merely vote against the nomination after treating Judge Sotomayor with respect, they might face some drop-off of Hispanic support, but probably nothing catastrophic.

The problem for Republicans are those who foment hate and fear against Sotomayor, and those Republicans too fearful to stand against them. The problem for Republicans are those who advance, and those who refuse to oppose, tactics that are personal, disrespectful and at times stoop to appeals to racism.

Let’s be clear: When certain Republicans raise the race issue, I am not suggesting they are racist. They are not. I am suggesting they are appealing to the racism of a certain segment of voters, not large by national standards, but part of a hate contingent that has far too much voice in the Republican Party, which is dominated by factions and voices that are extremist by traditional American standards.

Think about this: It is unfathomable, but true, that no Hispanic has ever served on the Supreme Court, that virtually no women or blacks have ever served, and that the Supreme Court has for more than 200 years been the almost exclusive domain of white men in a very diverse nation.

Regarding Hispanic Americans, their surge of pride for the Sotomayor nomination is wonderful, and their political influence and sweeping demographic growth gives Hispanics enormous influence. The problem with the Limbaugh-Gingrich-Tancredo line of attack is that it is demeaning, disrespectful and insulting not only to countless Hispanics but to countless Americans of all backgrounds who believe in fair play, shared patriotism and mutual respect.

Judge Sotomayor made a comment almost identical to a comment by Justice Samuel Alito. To support Alito and demean Sotomayor with the slander that she is racist should be beneath the dignity of our debate and beneath the dignity of the Republican Party. In fact, most Republicans, to their credit, have not resorted to this slander. And all Republicans might learn one thing from George W. Bush, who despite his imperfections always showed respect for Hispanic citizens and leaders.

As for Judge Sotomayor, she is the American Dream judge, a Horatio Alger story of hard work, high intelligence and great achievement that is common to many Americans of all backgrounds, both genders and every race.

Judge Sotomayor is the American Dream, the embodiment of earned success that America stands for, the latest realization that in America, anyone of talent can dream great dreams and achieve great goals.

For the first 200 years of America it was virtually unthinkable that any Hispanic, any black or any woman could serve on the court that is the highest authority of justice for the nation. It is now unthinkable that they won’t, and that is what America stands for.

Let honorable Republicans vote for or against her with respect and professionalism and dignity. For those who sink to the lowball tactics and the politics of hate and fear that are too often the public faces of the Republican Party, they dishonor the party of Lincoln. They defame the principles of our nation. They doom their party to a generation of well-deserved disaster and defeat.