Thursday, May 28, 2009

The phantom rider on the phantom bus that runs along First Street

When I saw a picture of Justice Sotomayor my first thought was, "Mmmm. This is the first Supreme Court nominee that I'd ever consider, you know, getting down with."

There are a couple of reasons for my line of thinking, but the biggest one is simply that I'm getting older and she's younger than me. Sorry, Ruth. Ms. Sotomayor's got a nice smile, too, and over the years I've developed a thing for substantial women. Hey, her and me, a couple of drinks at a bar and maybe if I'm lucky I'm, you know, reading her briefs...

But, as they say in a legal debate, that's not the test. The best judgment of the qualifications of a Supreme Court Justice does not rest with my taste in women. Oh no. What a world that would be. Forget Sotomayor, bring on Justice Jessica Alba!


The instant Republican response to Sotomayor's nomination has been two-pronged and breaks down, as one wag defined it, this way: Is she an elitist or is she a wetback? The former charge is standard fare, but she doesn't look elitist-ish and she talks about eating pigsfeet with garbanzo beans. That doesn't sound like an elitist either. But the Republicans are losing the Hispanic vote, so outright racism doesn't work well here either. As it stands, this move by Obama will provide political capital within the Hispanic community for the Democrats. If most Hispanics go the way of African Americans to the Democratic Party then the rump of the Republican Party will be pretty much limited to the old Confederacy.

Fortunately for them, they won't have to fight too hard against her.

Sotomayor's nomination is not a left-right argument at all. It's a top-bottom argument, or at least it should be. Most of us just don't know this. And the networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, the Comedy Network, whatever, all owned by big corporations, don't want us to notice it. All the screaming and counterscreaming, that's all just professional wrestling. Don't sit too close to the ring, folks, or you'll get hit by a folding chair thrown by one side or the other.

Sotomayor is neither an elitist nor a wetback. She's a corporatist. Her rulings almost always side with Big Business. That's why the Wall Street Journal likes her. That's why the Republicans, or enough of them necessary to get the job done, will eventually vote for her after the game is played out in front of the cameras.


This is how I predict her nomination process will play out over the corporate airwaves:

We've already had someone call her Che Guevarra in robes (or a dress, I forget which). Meanwhile, because she said that she uses her life experience in her understanding of the law, and her life consists of being a Latina, she has also been accused of being both a racist and a sexist (because she has both a race and a sex). Rush Limbaugh will find something to complain about and call her "de-SPIC-able" in his usual racist punnage. The racists who listen to Rushbo will get a chuckle over this. The Left will come to her defense. Someone will write a column about her hardscrabble youth in the Bronx projects. There will then be a debate about empathy and emotion in the courtroom. One side will pretend that their side and all of their judges never feel any emotion and that they are strict constructionist automatons who rule by the letter of the original intent of the law. The other side will wax fondly about the wisdom of growing up with the common people and eating pigsfeet. Both sides of this debate will be full of shit.

(She was first appointed to the federal bench by George H. W. Bush, for chrissakes. Maybe ol' Poppy eats pigsfeet on the porch of his mansion.)

Ms. Sotomayor will be confirmed, but the "conventional wisdom" generators of Washington, D.C. will solemnly announce in their columns that Obama "owes one" to the "moderate Republicans" who voted for her and that he will have to choose his next Supreme Court nominee from "farther to the right." In the upcoming session of the Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor will consistently vote with Alito, Roberts, Thomas and Scalia on cases involving Big Business. Someone will comment, "Gee whiz, you never know what you're getting when you appoint someone to the Supreme Court! Who could've guessed?" She will occasionally vote with the moderates to limit extreme torture or summary executions in the streets or some other issue involving civil rights. This will ensure that she is branded as a "liberal activist judge." Her effigy will on occasion be taken out to be marched about on the Fox Channel.


Neither party now represents the people. Their role is to act like they represent the people. You are now watching their performance.

But Rosa Parks did not sit down in vain. As a result of Sotomayor's appointment, anyone, no matter what race, creed, ethnicity or national origin, anyone at all will be able to sit anyplace where he or she pleases on the bus. This freedom will be protected.

But fewer and fewer of us will be able to afford to ride on the bus.

And there will be no bus.


At May 28, 2009 3:42 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

Bob, your last section is stunningly succinct and so horribly true. We have somehow lost representation. I've vaguely understood this for some time, but it took your prose to make it clear. Everybody's allowed on the bus now--or would be if the bus still existed.

At May 28, 2009 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the observations on the Repub/Dem divide are interesting, but irrelevant.

More people need to accept the fact that the Dem/Repub "arguments" or "disagreements" are done for theatre, not for real checks and balances.

In Sotomayor's case, the theatre is to distract from Sotomayor's actual problems as a nominee -- what I consider problems. Mainly that would be all the things she'll do to legalize all the stuff that happened under Bush/Cheney.

The role of the SCOTUS since Bush v Gore in 2000 has been to legalize the illegal doings of the Fed Govt. And it's not just the Repubs who are doing evil. The mighty Obama is solidifying as LEGAL all the immoral, unethical, inhumane and illegal things done by Bush/Cheney.

So where's the real utility of an artificial Repub/Dem "choice" or "argument"?

I suggest there is none.

-micah pyre

At May 28, 2009 4:54 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

A great post Bob and I agree that what we see regarding the “differences” between the two major parties is acting, not even good acting at that. I recently read somewhere that in France people get out in the streets protesting, burning cars, etc. when their government does something to affect their lives adversely while by comparison Americans sit on their duffs and do nothing. A generalization perhaps but maybe not so off the mark. The military-industrial-scientific-congressional complex has us so far removed from power that it would seem the only thing left that would change anything would be a massive protest by a significant number of Americans which doesn’t seem to be in the stars right now.

At May 29, 2009 6:27 AM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Ironically Rob, it might be because large numbers of Americans regard that as unseemly behavior, i.e., we've become too petit bourgeois.

At May 29, 2009 1:04 PM, Blogger rob payne said...


That could very well be. It certainly is a striking cultural difference.


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