Sotomayor – For or Against – Why it Doesn’t Matter, Really

Many people have been talking back and forth recently about Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court. Some say that Sotomayor is clearly a racially motivated choice. For them the main reason she was selected was because she is female and Hispanic. While I don’t know exactly if President Obama chose her himself, or she was the best choice presented to him by his advisors, the choice is out there nonetheless. Of course, the two main criticisms against her from the right are the case she ruled for the city against the white fire fighters in a reverse discrimination case, and statements she made suggesting her race and gender somehow made her better equipped to make legal decisions. Her supporters argue that in the case of the reverse discrimination, she was actually upholding the law, and any beef people have with the decision is with the law she was upholding, and not with her. And for her statement regarding the relationship between gender/race and decision making ability, I think most will safely agree that at the very least, that statement was taken out of context.

We live in a sound bite, thirty-second society. Most people don’t have the time or the patience to sort through several layers of meaning and context to get to the intent behind the delivered message. Recently Will Smith said something about Hitler, and it didn’t take very long for a reporter to take one or two sentences out of a spoken paragraph which was surrounded by content and context and put a spin on it. All to sell newspapers. Luckily, when most people saw context of the statement, it was clear that the reporter was attempting to put a spin on it, and Mr. Smith’s reputation wasn’t adversely effected.

With so much spin and out of context quotations, and ten-second attention seeking news headlines, it’s no wonder that it can be extremely difficult for someone in Obama’s position to choose an appropriate candidate for such a powerful appointment of authority. It’s not like Sotomayor can be kicked off the bench if people don’t like her opinions.

This kind of thinking makes sense on a large scale, choosing your position wisely when there is no chance of going back if it doesn’t work out. That is why a selection for the Supreme Court is such a long, public, lengthy process. We can’t afford any mistakes. I think it is obvious that the original architects of the United States put quite a lot of effort into designing a system that was fairly difficult to corrupt (despite many instances of the contrary).

Whether your think Sotomayor will be a great Justice of a terrible one, you’ve got to have some appreciation for the process through which she will be scrutinized to the nth degree. It is an example that despite however many corrupt and unscrupulous politicians find themselves in power, it is difficult to out navigate a system that has been in place for so long. One can only hope it stays that way for a while.

For my part, given the facts of the structure and operational guidelines of the supreme court, and the enormous amount of seriousness that justices must feel when they make decisions, and that Sotomayor, if she is eventually selected (which I’m pretty sure she will be) is replacing someone with similar political leanings and beliefs, I don’t think there is anything to worry about.

When you take a step back and look at the big picture, despite all of the problems of the United States, we’ve got a pretty good system and set of rules in place to make sure we stay free and profitable for many years to come.