On the night that word leaked that Justice David Souter was stepping down, I predicted that President Obama's pick would be federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor, a native of the Bronx. I couldn't imagine why he would not pick her: An experienced appeals court judge, raised in a housing project (empathy alert!) but educated in the Ivy League, considered a moderate center-left judge, in line to become only the third female justice of the High Court, and the first Latina.
For once, I was right.
It will be interesting to see how aggressively the GOP goes after the Sotomayor nomination, or better put, how they go after this, period. The grounds to block Obama's nomination would be to assert that Sotomayor is somehow not qualified or that she somehow lacks the proper judicial temperament (andher now semi-famous and arguably misinterpreted quip about judges making laws will be Exhibit A, I guess.)
But even assuming that the case against Sotomayor is a reasoned and well thought-out one (and good luck incubating that in the noxious atmosphere of talk radio), it's a political minefield. Ironically, the blog post I was going to write this morning before I learned of the Sotomayor nomination was about the Republican Party and how its jihad on immigration issues will guarantee long-term minority status -- as Hispanics who might have been sympathetic to GOP stands on issues like abortion continue to be driven en masse to the Democrats, just as Republicans flubbed their chance to retain black support in the 1950s and 1960s.
So now I'm wondering if aggressive Republican opposition to the first Latina justice, on top of general xenophobia, will be the final straw breaking the back of the GOP. What's more, the main talk radio line of attack will surely be "empathy" -- defined by most people as the ability to understand and relate to the problems of others. In the post-AIG, post-Merrill Lynch era, I don't think you want to be "the anti-empathy party" any more than you want to be the party that's not welcoming to Latinos.