Will There Be Blood In Round One of Sotomayor?

Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor will officially take the hot seat today as she begins her Senate confirmation hearings. The question is how bloody will this first round of hearings really be?

If history is any indicator, Sotomayor should be getting ready for a bumpy ride. Supreme Court confirmation hearings have never been easy for the nominee. Senators, the nominee and politicos alike understand the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment with the potential to change the American political landscape. (Important links below.)

Many in the Obama White House are lowering expectations saying this should be an easy confirmation and not to expect any fireworks. They are probably right. The Senate Judiciary Committee is very different from the Justice Roberts days. Now that Democrats hold the reigns, the tone should be very friendly to any Obama nominee. Yet, Republicans are ready to do a though examination of her record. They are mindful that Sotomayor has the potential to be the first Latina Supreme Court Justice and just the third women. Many in the GOP are worried how criticism on Sototmayor will be seen by average Americans and especially Hispanics. Some polling has shown the initial criticism of Sotomayor by Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich attacking her as a racist has had a negative effect on the GOP. According to one poll, Hispanic support for Republicans has dropped to single digits.

Sotomayor has served on the federal bench for 17 years – longer than any incoming justice in the last 100 years. Senators had file boxes of her opinions sent to their offices. Yet I wonder what will be the focus of the hearings, her judicial policy or her cultural point of view. Probably a combination of both.

This weekend I went out to a barbecue at a friend’s apartment building. I was a good guest and brought a dish to share but when I got there I realized there was more then enough food for everyone. In fact there might have been enough food for the entire apartment building. In true Latino fashion the Spanish music was blaring, the people were dancing , and every dish imaginable food was available from arroz con gandules to hotdogs to nachos to potato chips. You even had dueling grills with a very Hispanic American feeling. On one you had beef and turkey burgers and grilled eggplant. On the next you had skirt stakes, tacos and roasted corn. Hispanics , Republican and Democrat alike, enjoyed the great weekend weather and food. All we needed were the dominos.

Some of my friends and I started discussing Sotomayor as one of the guests had an “I Support Sototmayor” t-shirt. It was interesting to see the mixed reaction of my friends. Some were 100% behind her, perceiving it as a moment of great pride to see one of their own “movin’ up.” Yet, a few others were very adamant that they really didn’t care that she was a “Latina” like them. They were more concerned to have someone on the bench who agreed with them than someone who shared some culture point of reference. They were very troubled by her decision about the firefighters. Something the judge herself will have to clarify during the confirmation process. We all realized that the way to discuss this issue was to focus on her policy and not attack her personally… something we all wished more seasoned politicians would have realized.

Now the confirmation hearing starts. Look forward to seeing what happens. Here are some resources:

Dueling editorials on both views of Sotomayor:


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