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The GOP’s retrenchment

New U.S. Census data indicates that of the 5 million new voters in the 2008 elections, virtually all of them were minorities. The GOP has responded to the increased diversity of the American electorate the only way it knows how — by retrenching behind its white, male, Southern base.

This strategy was on full display during the committee hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The Puerto Rican native sat before a panel of angry old white men who treated her with the contempt usually reserved for “the help,” as if personally insulted the maid would imagine herself worthy of sitting on the nation’s highest court.

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Chief among their obsessions were her “wise Latina” comments: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [in race and sex discrimination cases] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Seems self-evident, no? I would also hope that a wise farmer, with the richness of his experience, would more often than not reach a better conclusion in agricultural issues than a city slicker who hasn’t lived that life. Yet Republican after Republican fixated on that statement, as if the mere mention of her ethnicity somehow suggested radical racialist thoughts. Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl spent 10 minutes lecturing Sotomayor on that statement.

Then there was Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who couldn’t believe that Sotomayor hadn’t voted the same way in the New Haven firefighter case as Judge José Cabranes, who was also Puerto Rican! All brown people are apparently supposed to vote the same, unlike white judges, who are allowed to disagree on tough constitutional issues. And along the same lines, these Republican senators repeatedly told us they would’ve been happy to vote to confirm arch-conservative judge Miguel Estrada to the high court, so, you see, they aren’t racist! Some of their best friends are Latino judges!

On the sidelines, conservative commentators (most of them, not coincidentally, white males) pushed Senate Republicans to more aggressively push the racial angle.

“What they must do is expose Sotomayor, as they did not in the case of Ginsburg, as a political activist whose career bespeaks a lifelong resolve to discriminate against white males to the degree necessary to bring about an equality of rewards in society,” wrote Pat Buchanan in his column. “Sonia is, first and foremost, a Latina. She has not hesitated to demand, even in college and law school, ethnic and gender preferences for her own. Her concept of justice is race-based.” Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly asked, “Should white Americans be concerned about Judge Sotomayor?” Prominent columnist Charles Krauthammer claimed that Sotomayor was a “believer in the racial spoils system.”

I’ve written repeatedly about where this country is headed — White America is dropping from 69.4 percent in 2000 to 65.1 percent in 2010 to 57.5 percent in 2030. By 2050, the U.S. will be majority-minority, and while African-Americans and Asians will play a large role, the bulk of that minority growth will come from Latinos. Republicans don’t seem to care, and following their base’s advice, appear to be betting that their diminishing base can keep them afloat electorally — a bizarre strategy that isn’t just demographically unsound (the numbers simply aren’t there), but also disgustingly divisive for our proudly pluralistic nation. Republicans may pine for 1950, when whites were 90 percent of the country, but this nation has evolved, and the inability of conservatives to adjust accordingly only solidifies the Democrats’ hand.

And to think, we haven’t even gotten to the immigration debate yet.



Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos