President Barrack Obama’s choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor was a supreme choice. I say this not for all the conventional reasons one would expect. Before I explain my position, let me establish a few facts that will give you the context for it. First, a president is entitled to have his nominees confirmed, unless a disqualifying issue is discovered. Disagreeing with a person on abortion, gay rights, or affirmative action is not a disqualifying issue. Non-payment of taxes, lying under oath, or not renewing one’s law license, etc. is.
As usual, expect Republicans to overreach on trying to block Obama’s pick. They will further alienate independent voters who want solutions to problems and not continued partisan bickering. You can disagree with Judge Sotomayor on a range of issues, as I do, but you can’t make the argument that she is not qualified. I hope and pray that Republicans won’t revert back to their natural inclination of injecting race into this debate.
They know they don’t have the votes to block her confirmation, so they are going to throw mud at her and hope that something sticks. Rush Limbaugh has already called her a “racist.” Not one Republican leader voiced any objection to Rush’s race-baiting. Republicans continue to underestimate Obama’s political skills. You do not come from total obscurity to being president of the United States in four years without being a shrewd and skilled political tactician. His nomination of Sotomayor was one of the most amazing political moves I have seen in all my years of being a political operative.
In Obama’s calculation, he is at his most popular (his number will only go down and then stabilize). Democrats control the Senate, and he expects another pick to the court during his term. He also knows that the Republicans are in an extremely weakened position politically. Therefore, now is the time to nominate his most controversial pick (on a relative scale). Even Republicans concede that Sotomayor will be confirmed. But Obama’s pick has less to do with the court and more to do with the Hispanic community. He has been under intense pressure from them because he has few high-level Hispanics in his administration. After meeting with a group of them, he promised them a town hall meeting about giving amnesty to illegal immigrants in the country, which never happened, resulting in voicing their frustration to the media.
After the White House’s internal polling data came back and they had conversations with members of Congress, the president realized that there was no appetite to deal with amnesty this year. Word was sent to the Hispanic community to back off. So, their consolation prize was a Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court. Basically, the White House’s position with the Hispanic community is, “Shut up!” Obama has more pressing issues like a bad economy to deal with, two wars, North Korea, and healthcare, to name a few. Picking Sotomayor basically buys off the Hispanic community and will prevent them from bugging the administration about illegal immigration.
This move of the president was a stroke of genius. Regardless of your politics, you have to tip your hat to the president’s move. He knows that there is absolutely nothing the Republicans can do to counter his move.
Republicans don’t have anything to offer the Hispanic community. Effectively, this is Obama’s opening salvo for his reelection campaign in 2012. He has basically taken the Hispanic vote off the table. Don’t be surprised if his next pick will be a Black person. If there is a third pick, it will be a white male. How do Republicans win a national election if they have written off Black and Hispanic votes from day one?
Politically, Republicans are in bad shape and there is no light at the end of the tunnel in the near term. If the economy recovers, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario for a Republican victory in 2012. Based on current political demographics, they will probably lose seats in both houses of Congress in next year’s mid-term elections. Obama is playing chess, while Republicans are playing checker. His choice of Sotomayor is a stroke of genius.
(Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC, a DC-based political consulting/government affairs firm.)