As expected, and widely predicted even before the choice of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court was announced, portions of the right wing have been engaging in their usual politics of personal destruction to distort Sotomayor’s record and engage in character assassination. In this case the right is actually divided. Some conservatives see attacks on Sotomayor as part of their grand strategy for 2012 of painting Obama as a leftist, and many other conservatives just fall into character assassination as a Pavlovian response to any action from a Democrat.
In contrast, some conservatives realize that it is counter to their goal of receiving greater Hispanic support to someone who is probably the first Hispanic nominee. I wonder if any on the right are also beginning to realize the degree to which their reliance on the politics of personal destruction has backfired, with even many who might not vote against them based upon their beliefs now wishing to disassociate themselves with the Republican Party and conservative movement due to their unsavory tactics.
There is far too much material and too little time to quote everything of relevance here so I will try to choose some of the best links. A case such as this is an example of both the blogosphere at its worst and best. At worst the blogs permit the right wing echo chamber to repeat the same lies and distortions, allowing good conservative sheep to quickly learn which lies to repeat. At best the blogoshpere has quickly presented far more actual analysis than has been present in the news media.
To begin, The Scotus Blog has presented a summary of her decisions in posts here, here, and here. Her decisions have often been on narrow, technical grounds and only provide limited insight into her views on the types of issues considered by the Supreme Court (despite attempts by the right to mischaracterize her as having a far left record ). There are some favorable signs with respect to her views on First Amendment rights.
There are many blog posts responding to the character assassination from the right, such as from Adam Server here and here, John Cole, Matthew Yglesias, Digby, Steve Benen, Chris Bowers (here and here), Nate Silver, Greg Sargent, Media Matters, Joan Walsh, Mahablog, and Ta Nehisi Coates. They include responses to some of the more prominent attacks from the right including distorted claims about her decisions being overturned, claims about her competence, their rants against empathy, and statements taken out of context to claim she is racist or sexist.
Hopefully these links contain the facts with regards to all the falsehoods already being spread by the right wing noise machine–at least so far. The fiction writing ability of the right far exceeds their competence or principles, and we can expect many more comparable lies to be spread.
While conservatives quickly launched a smear campiagn full of misinformation on Sonia Sotomayor, it looks like it might already be fizzling out. There is no doubt that some right wing bloggers and talk radio propagandists will continue to repeat the same lies indefinitely. Those indocrinated in far right propaganda have a tough time shaking it off regardless of how much evidence is presented that they are wrong. There are still some who claim that Obama isn’t a natural born American citizen and that there is some validity to the discredited claims of the Swift Boat Liars against John Kerry. There are also some signs of rationality as some conservatives realize that, barring some unexpected revelations, none of their false claims will be enough to prevent Sotomayor’s nomination from being approved.
The right wing attacks have been based on limited and distorted evidence and are so weak that even some conservatives are not able to go along. Some such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are making claims that she is a racist–a claim which certainely takes a lot of chutzpah considering the record of the GOP. These claims were based upon taking a few lines out of context from a lecture given in 2001. The simple fact that claims of racism are based upon a single lecture from almost eight years ago should already raise some red flags as to the validity of the argument. Rod Dreher reviewed the statements which earlier had him thinking she was racist in context and conceded, I was wrong about Sotomayor speech.
They have made an even weaker argument in dishonest claims that sixty percent of her cases were overturned by the Supreme Court. This argument is so deceitful that it might help open a few more eyes as to the dishonest tactics regularly employed by the right wing noise machine. They leave out the important facts that she only had five cases reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court typically reverses 75% of circuit court decisions that rules on. Having three cases reversed is hardly meaningful. This actually represents 2% of her total cases, far less than the 60% number misleadingly cited by the right.
The attackers also claimed that Sotomayor has a far more liberal record than she actually has. Her decisions have offen been based upon narrow technical grounds specific to the individual case as opposed to ideology. The conservatives who have actually looked at her record are finding that she is far more centrist and far less ideological than they first heard. She has a very limited record with regards to abortion, and opponents of abortion rights found that her record was not what they expected. Steven Waldman wrote:
One has to assume Obama wouldn’t have appointed Sonia Sotomayor without some indication that she’s pro-choice but — based on very, very little information — I wonder if she might not end up being an abortion centrist.
First, in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, she actually ruled against the pro-choice group on Constitutional grounds.
Second, in Amnesty America v. Town of West Hartford, she ruled in favor of the rights of anti-abortion protestors.
Neither of these cases dealt with the merits of abortion. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that in the two cases we know of that related partly to abortion, she took the position that pro-life groups would have wanted (albeit for reasons unrelated to Roe v. Wade). At a minimum, these cases would seem to indicate that, if she is pro-choice, she didn’t let those views affect her view of the relevant law.
While some bloggers and right wing pundits will repeat any attack, the arguments are appearing to be too weak even for the Senate Republicans. Mike Allen reports that any Republican opposition to her is fizzling out quickly:
More than 24 hours after the White House unveiling, no senator has come out in opposition to Sotomayor’s confirmation.
“The sentiment is overwhelming that the Senate should do due diligence but should not make a mountain out of a molehill,” said a top Senate Republican aide. “If there’s no ‘there’ there, we shouldn’t try to create one.”
So far there is certainly no ‘there’ there in the accusations being fabricated by the right. The attacks upon Sotomayor are so weak, and so transparently false, that if they have any impact it should be to increase the backlash against the Republicans. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah for the Republicans to raise charges of racism against others and only their most hardcore supporters can even listen to such claims without chuckling at them. Maybe Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice is on to something and their attacks are being orchestrated by a mole out to further destroy the Republican Party:
In instance after instance since Obama’s 2008 election and the Democratic sweep of Congress, the GOP is proving itself to be not so much “stuck on stupid” as much as “stuck on preaching to its (already convinced) choir.” It seems oblivious to the fact that OTHER voters — from critically important ethnic and age demographics — need to be courted which means being at least partially on the same cultural wavelength. Today’s Republican party is seemingly Super-glued to the slash-and-burn, characterize and demonize conservative talk radio political culture.
It’s hard to imagine that a party that has problems with independent voters and Latino voters so going out of its way to repel voters it needs, unless there is a Democratic mole inside the GOP instigating these comments.
Calling her a racist will get lots of publicity but it’s going to drive many Hispanic voters away in droves. And so will the faces delivering this message: the well-fed, sizeable face of multi-millionaire private- jet-owner Limbaugh, sitting in front of his mike, and the very familiar face of Gingrich. Many Americans (who are not millionaires or who aren’t conservative Republicans) will look at and compare the two GOPers’ life narratives with that of Sotomayor. Even worse: many independent voters, Democrats who may not be enamored with Obama, and moderate Republicans have already distanced themselves from the GOP. This latest barrage at Sotomayor now clearly is part of a pattern: no matter what the issue, the GOP is responding now with demonization in attempts to stir up hot button resentments and/or political rage.
And even worse for the GOP: its unlikely to resonate among the younger voters the GOP will need to regain footing in the 21st century.
So, except for getting nods of approval and cries of “That’s the way, go get ‘em!” from Republicans, what gains will Republicans (via talk shows, Gingrich and weblogs) make in accusing Sotomayor of being a racist — except, rightfully or wrongfully, causing some on the fence to conclude that those Republicans raising the racism issue could perhaps be mistakenly talking about what they are seeing when they look in the mirror?
A mole might be the most rational explanation for the manner in which the Republicans persist in utilizing tactics which drive away rational voters, but unfortunately what we are seeing is the actual mindset of the conservative movement.
Barring any unexpected findings she will be easily confirmed. The manner of the right wing attacks are now one of the most significant aspects of this story, considering that any pick would have been subjected to similar lies from the right wing. Their distortion of her judicial record is very similar to how the right typically distorts voting records, such as taking an up or down vote on an overall budget and then launching attacks based upon saying a Senator voted for or against a specific item in the budget.
In a democracy it is an extremely serious issue when votes are being influenced not by the actual facts or serious discussion over different viewpoints but based upon repeated campaigns of distortion such as this. It is important for a democracy to work for the voters to be working from accurate information, not the misinformation regularly spread by the right. It would be both legitimate and healthy for the democratic process if conservatives responded to a nominee with an honest discussion of the areas where they disagreed. Instead they ignore her actual record, as they also do with political candidates, and launch attacks based upon fabrications created by distortions of the record and taking statements out of context.