Richard Viguerie, one of the lions of conservative activism, thinks the Sonia Sotomayor nomination could invigorate conservatism. Viguerie writes:
President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sotomayor has so far managed to unite all wings of the conservative movement — economic, foreign policy, social, traditional and libertarian — in a way we haven’t seen since the early Clinton years.
Is this true? Most conservatives aren’t thrilled with the nomination, but I also don’t see a whole lot of passionate opposition (except among those who would passionately oppose any Obama nominee, even Mother Teresa). For an example of not-exactly-thrilled but muted conservative reaction, see, for instance, these posts by Jonathan Adler on The Volokh Conspiracy. Adler writes:
Looking at the race-related cases in which Judge Sotomayor has disagreed with her colleagues leads me to the following conclusion (although it does not convince me to oppose her nomination). Compared to the other judges on her Cirucit, Judge Sotomayor appears more inclined to accept aggressive and innovative use of equal protection arguments in race-related cases and seems to be more accepting of the use of race to achieve diversity in the workplace. This does not make her an “extremist,” and it certainly does not make her a “racist,” but it does suggest she would fit comfortably on the “liberal” side of the current court on such issues, and is consistent with the inference one could draw from her speeches. Insofar as one disagrees with this approach to race-related cases, this could be cause for concern.
A new article by The New Republic‘s Jeff Rosen, who has caught flak in the past for his criticism of Sotomayor, argues that she would be a liberal-but-not-too-liberal, and definitely not knee-jerk liberal or hardcore ideological, presence on the Supreme Court. It’s unlikely that any Obama appointee would be “better,” from a conservative/libertarian point of view.
Meanwhile, rallying around opposition to Sotomayor would be unwise for conservatives for a few reasons. It would be hard to paint her (convincingly) as an out-of-the-mainstream radical. Also, the right would be investing a lot (scarce) political capital into attacking a Hispanic woman; giving her impressive credentials, trying to paint her as a less-than-competent “affirmative action baby” could easily come across as sexist and racist, particularly given some of the nasty rhetoric already directed at the judge.
This does not mean that conservatives and libertarians should not criticize Sotomayor. There’s plenty to criticize. This is not, however, a wise fight to pick as the mother of all battles.
(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics.com)