Friday, May 29, 2009

Sotomayor as wedge issue

I've been on a little bit of a hiatus from blogging, but I am inspired to get back because of some interesting polling about Sonia Sotomayor. I have been thinking that her nomination would precipitate some splits in the GOP. Turns out I was right. There is a huge gender gap opening up among Republicans. Men in the GOP are not enthusiastic - in the Gallup poll cited, the difference between the "excellent/good" rating and "fair/poor" is 19% to 63%, or -44%. Among women, it's 33% to 43%, or -11% (must be some rounding in there). I picked this up from Andrew Sullivan.

44% difference among Republican men. 11% difference among Republican women.

I wasn't expecting there to be a gap like this based on gender, but I am not surprised. I was and am expecting a gap between moderate Republicans - those that are left in the party - and the diehard conservatives. This could be one of many wedge issues the Dems use against Republicans. Wedge issues used to be the domain of the GOP. Affirmative action is a great example. Republicans used affirmative action to drive a wedge between African Americans and blue collar Democrats.

Sotomayor's nomination could drive a wedge between moderate Republicans who actually do get along with Hispanics, because, for example, they live near them, work with them, know them, are friends with them, or are even - like my Dad - related to them (my brother-in-law is from Mexico). These are the Republicans who just don't have any reason to resent people who are different than them. These are Republicans who believe in those old-fashioned, traditional values of common decency and respect for people who work hard.

There are even some diehard conservatives who fit into this group. My grandparents were fundamentalist Christian conservatives who gave money to people like Jerry Falwell, but they spent their winters in McAllen, Texas, right on the Mexican border, where they got to know some Mexicans, and they liked them, because they were decent, hardworking people, just like my grandparents. If my grandmother heard of a woman who rose from the South Bronx to a Supreme Court nomination by virtue of hard work and education, she would have said, "Good for her." Because those were her values.

These decent, respectful Republicans and conservatives are going to be embarrassed by and resentful of idiots like Rush Limbaugh and Tom Tancredo. That is, they will be more embarrassed than they already are.

I'm not going to dignify the debate about whether or not Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court based on her race and gender by looking at the issues. Was she nominated to the Supreme Court because she is a Latina? Sure. My answer to any white American male who resents this is simple: shut the hell up. If you were born a straight white American male, like me, you were born one of the most privileged people in the history of the world. For you to complain about someone else being elevated to a position of privilege to balance our collective cultural abundance is the height of arrogance and pettiness. Being born a straight white American male doesn't guarantee that you will be successful. It doesn't mean that you will automatically have it easy. But it does mean that there are a lot obstacles that aren't in your way that are in the way for others who do not share your ethnicity, nationality, gender, or sexual preference.

There are legitimate issues about how long we should hold onto affirmative action, and how to redress past racial and gender imbalances and injustices. But this is not the time to debate that. This is the time to celebrate progress.

Any white American male who begrudges Sonia Sotomayor's accomplishments is a pathetic crybaby and a wimp. The problem for the Republican party is that there are a fair number of straight white American men who actually fit that description. Starting with Rush Limbaugh.

The problem for Rush Limbaugh is that a number of those decent, hardworking Republicans are members of the United States Senate.

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