Yesterday’s staff post on the Sotomayor hearings noted in an update that the apparent Republican decision to focus on the Ricci case and affirmative action was a rather edgy strategy given the risk of alienating proud Latino supporters of the woman conservatives are mocking as the “wise Latina.”
The hazard of this strategy was emphasized today in a quote from NDN’s Simon Rosenberg that appeared in a long Dan Balz WaPo article about the Sotomayor hearings:
If during the next few weeks the Republicans appear to be playing politics with race rather than raising legitimate issues about Sotomayor’s judicial approach, it could reinforce the deep impression that the Republican Party’s anachronistic and intolerant approach to race and diversity is making them less capable of leading a very different and more racially diverse America of the early 21st century.
Simon’s an astute observer of Latino political opinion, and he’s right: if Republicans really are wary of the impression of appearing to be some sort of white identity politics party, they sure are playing with fire if they make the Sotomayor hearings about affirmative action. It would be smarter for them to stay in the dog-whistle territory of abstractions about “judicial activism,” which the unhappy Cultural Right will understand as a reference to Roe v. Wade, instead of blundering into a debate over race and diversity that will raise temperatures in a way that is almost guaranteed to increase the already formidable Latino solidarity with Sotomayor, and hostility to the GOP.