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Losing the Crucial “White People With Spanish Last Names” Vote

By Matthew Yglesias on May 30, 2009 at 11:28 am

"Losing the Crucial “White People With Spanish Last Names” Vote"

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My friend Julian Sanchez, another not-especially-Hispanic blogger/pundit, has an excellent post on Sonia Sotomayor and the baffling tactics of the conservative movement. I’ll just quote the conclusion:

Look, it’s not racist to oppose a Latina judicial nominee, or to oppose affirmative action, or to point out genuine evidence of ethnic bias on the part of minorities. What we’re seeing here, though, is people clinging to the belief that Sotomayor has to be some mediocrity who struck the ethnic jackpot, that whatever benefit she got from affirmative action must be vastly more significant than her own qualities, that she’s got to be a harpy boiling with hatred for whitey, however overwhelming the evidence against all these propositions is. This is really profoundly ugly. Like Yglesias, I don’t think I’m especially sensitive to stuff like this, or particularly easily moved to anger, but I’m angry. I don’t think Republican pundits really appreciate the kind of damage they’re probably doing, for no reason I can discern given the slim odds of actually blocking the nomination. Which, perhaps, goes to Sotomayor’s point: They really have no idea how they sound to anyone else.

One thing conservatives might want to ask themselves is what would they be saying about Sotomayor if she had the exact same background and record but was a middle class white woman from Riverdale instead of a poor Latina from the projects. Of course, they still wouldn’t like her but they’d find a non-offensive way to express that. They’d say things like “she’ll probably vote with Ginsburg and Breyer whereas I would prefer a justice likely to vote with Scalia and Roberts.” That’s a perfectly good reason to be unhappy with a judicial nominee. Instead, they’re freaking out about her name, about Puerto Rican food, about the idea that she’s bitchy, that she’s benefited from “preferential treatment,” that she must secretly be stupid, that she’s a Klan member, and all kinds of other nonsense that’s only explicable as a hostile reaction to her ethnic background.

Conservatives ought to picture an anti-abortion, gun-owning, married, male, prosperous, Cuban-American small businessman living in the suburbs of Miami. Picture him reacting to the news of Sotomayor’s nomination. Perhaps he’s happy in some sense to contemplate a Latina on the bench, but perhaps not. Either way, the guy’s still a solid conservative. Now picture him listening to G. Gordon Liddy say “I understand that they found out today that Miss Sotomayor is a member of La Raza, which means in illegal alien, ‘the race.’” That’s not going to play well.

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