According to some our friends on the political right, one of Sonia Sottomayor’s disqualifications for a seat on the Supreme Court is that she seems inclined to bring her gender, ethnicity and humble beginnings to her work as a judge.
Such “identity politics” have no place in the judiciary, argue the conservatives.
Ah, but where we these critics during confirmation hearings for conservative jurist Samuel Alito in January 2006?
Here’s part of what Alito had to say:
I don’t come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.
And I know about their experiences and I didn’t experience those things. I don’t take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.
But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.
And that’s why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position.
And so it’s my job to apply the law. It’s not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.
But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, “You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother.” They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country.
When I have cases involving children, I can’t help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that’s before me.
And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or gender. And I do take that into account. When I have a case involving someone who’s been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I’ve known and admire very greatly who’ve had disabilities, and I’ve watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn’t think of what it’s doing — the barriers that it puts up to them.
So those are some of the experiences that have shaped me as a person.
For more on this matter, including a video of Alito’s testimony, check HERE.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman has a GOOD TAKE on identity politics, including this observation:
The thing that is really driving conservatives crazy, I think, is that their identity politics just isn’t working like it used to. Their whole approach has been based on the belief that Americans vote as if they live in Mayberry, and fear and hate anyone who looks a bit different; now that the country just isn’t like that, they’ve gone mad.