Playing the race card

Which party in Washington is playing the race card with judicial nominees? The answer simply put is both the donkeys and the elephants. In the current edition of the Weekly Standard, Stephen Calabresi argues that Democrats have taken the vow, “No More Clarence Thomases,” and have thus focused their filibuster focus on black, Hispanic, Catholic and female judicial nominees:

Why are Senate Democrats so afraid of conservative judicial nominees who are African Americans, Hispanics, Catholics, and women? Because these Clarence Thomas nominees threaten to split the Democratic base by aligning conservative Republicans with conservative voices in the minority community and appealing to suburban women. The Democrats need Bush to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court whom they can caricature and vilify, and it is much harder for them to do that if Bush nominates the judicial equivalent of a Condi Rice rather than a John Ashcroft.”

Stephen is trying to convince his readers that democrats are obsessed with blocking these nominees because of their race, gender, religion or some combination of them. The implicit message a critic can draw from this reasoning is the opposite…that the GOP is pushing these nominees precisely for the same reasons. Is that far fetch? Not if you read this statement from Orrin Hatch calling for the quick approval of nominees Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown:

“The American Bar Association unanimously gave Justice Owen its highest rating of well qualified. This means she has outstanding legal ability and breadth of experience, the highest reputation for integrity, and such qualities as compassion, open-mindedness, freedom from bias, and commitment to equal justice under law. Yet, some of the very Democrats who once said the ABA rating was the gold standard for evaluating judicial nominees now call Justice Owen an extremist.Another nominee branded an extremist is California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She is the daughter of Alabama sharecroppers who attended segregated schools before receiving her law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has spent a quarter-century in public service, serving in all three branches of state government.”

Notice how Hatch uses the ABA ranking to make the case for Owen and talks up her “outstanding legal ability” and “breadth of experience.” Yet, for Judge Rogers, the focus has to be on her racial biography. Lamenting on her sharecropper’s heritage is a code word for letting in the audience on her race. The same slant is noticeable in the ads run by Progress for America (an anti-filibuster 527). The ad right off the bat states, “Janice Brown is the daughter of sharecroppers.” How about starting with her legal attributes instead of how her parents toiled in the southern cotton fields. Republicans have this obsession about leading with the “sharecropper” line. It’s as if people don’t learn that she’s not the “daughter of sharecroppers,” there’s no way that the public will learn that she’s black.

Democrats are charging these nominees with extremism and republicans are pushing their race, gender and what not upfront. The hypocrisy of both parties is being showcased. Democrats want minorities to succeed and become anything except conservative (rhetorically). Republicans want minorities to be conservative but are most content to highlight their up-from-sharecropping experiences instead of focusing on their hard work, intellect and integrity.


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