The Republican Party faces a supreme test in the coming weeks that goes far beyond when Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice (and let’s be honest — given Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications, it really is a question of when, not if). The real test is whether the Bush-Rove-Cheney-Steele-Limbaugh party that is currently leading Republicans into the political abyss decides to unleash its name-calling right-wing dogs, or whether Republicans do what is smart and realize that Judge Sotomayor is immensely qualified to be on the Supreme Court and let it go. And by “let it go,” I mean realize that this battle is all but over and that you don’t win political points by attacking an incredibly accomplished legal scholar who, aside from being the first Latina to be nominated to the court, is one of the most experienced and pragmatic legal minds to be put forth as a nominee in a very long time.

So here is the test for the Republican Party. Is the Republican Party completely and utterly captured by an out-of-touch, extreme right wing, or are there some pragmatic political minds left who realize that Sotomayor is as qualified — if not more — as any Supreme Court nominee we have ever had, and so will argue to let it go and choose to fight another day?

Now, a smart political party that is thinking ahead would not choose a brutish battle that riles up its right-wing base at the expense of losing even more support among women, Latinos, moderates, etc. In fact, a smart political party would embrace the historic nature of this choice and decide that this battle is lost. I mean, for the various right-wing groups that will soon be frothing at the mouth with their talking points, I can all but see their cognitive dissonance as they try to disconnect themselves from the reality of Sotomayor’s impressive record and résumé.

And, just in case my Republican friends don’t have it, here are some highlights, as the various news reports note, of a nominee who has faced real challenges and excelled in spite of them.

* Sotomayor dealt with diabetes as a child and lost her father at age 9.

* Sotomayor grew up in a modest household under the care of a hardworking mother who is — as she said today — her inspiration.

* She is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School.
* She was an assistant DA in Manhattan, where she tried numerous criminal cases.
* Sotomayor became a federal judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992, and an appeals judge in 1998 for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
* First appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush.
* Named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
* She has worked at almost every level of our judicial system.

* She has a wealth of federal judicial experience that exceeds nearly every justice who has preceded her.

All in all, a pretty impressive record by anyone’s standard (except for those out-of-touch Limbaugh Republicans who will be grasping at straws of criticism wherever they can find them).

So my word of advice to Republicans, whether they be talking heads or senators, is think twice before you stand in the way of this historic freight train. Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed.

But the decision Republicans make to fight this confirmation will not be about Sotomayor, I fear. In fact, if they stand in the way of history and excellence, it will be because the Republican Party and the right-wing talk radio circuit are scrambling to energize their disillusioned and disheartened base. The only problem with this political logic is that it’s wrong and stupid. If Republicans choose a fight — a needless fight — over this confirmation, they will look so out of touch, petty and ridiculous that Democrats like myself are going to start running out of adjectives to describe how out of touch, petty and ridiculous they are.

So my advice is, for once, be smart, Embrace a great pick for the Supreme Court. Embrace that Judge Sotomayor will bring a sharp mind and great wealth of experience and background to the court. The alternative is to choose a needless and nasty fight that you will lose.

It will be interesting to watch, but I have sneaking suspicion that Republicans — spurred on by Limbaugh, Steele, Rove, and others — will choose to fight.

And, in doing so, they will not only lose this confirmation battle, but the political battle. They will not only lose even more support among the American people (if that’s possible), but they will dig themselves into such a deep political hole it will be hard to imagine how they ever climb out of it.

So let the supreme test begin — but so far it’s clear that President Obama passed his supreme test. The only question is, when will Republicans fail theirs?