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It's All Over but the Shouting

By Kevin Fayle on August 05, 2009 2:05 PM
While Democratic senators busied themselves hanging streamers and blowing up balloons for the impending confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, another Republican senator tried to secure an invite to the party. 

Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) announced his plans to vote in favor of Sotomayor's nomination, joining six other GOP senators who have also declared their support.  As part of the announcement, Bond said that, while he has some reservations about her statements and decisions, "I will support her, I'll be proud for her, the community she represents, and the American dream she shows is possible." 
Normally that statement would translate from Washingtonian to English into something like "I really, really need Latino votes," but what's especially interesting is that Bond is retiring after his term.  That means that his move is perhaps not simply a cynical ploy to secure a chunk of the fastest growing segment of the electorate for himself.

Instead, it's probably a cynical ploy on behalf of his successor, or maybe just the Republican Party in general. 

It's a good play.  Since Bond is out after this term, he can jump on the grenade for the GOP while the rest of his party appeases the base by making lots of noise about judicial activism and empathy and all that.  Bond doesn't have to worry about the NRA's plan to factor the Sotomayor vote into its candidate rating system since he'll be gone during the next election, but he can still elevate GOP's place in the hearts and minds of Latino Missourians while avoiding any backlash from conservative voters concerned with abortion and affirmative action.

Meanwhile, the Republican leadership continued to beat the old, tired "judicial activist" drum in its speeches against Sotomayor's nomination.  As I've pointed out before, these diatribes are really just coded messages to the faithful meant to reassure them that the GOP is still the party of the conservative movement that wants to roll back the jurisprudence of the Court to pre-Warren days (or in the case of Clarence Thomas, the early 19th century.)

In the end, the noise coming from both sides of the aisle doesn't amount to much.  Sotomayor will be confirmed, and all the positioning around the confirmation vote is all about political power, and nothing much to do with concern for the functioning of the American legal system.

Which is all fine and good now, when the ideological makeup of the Court isn't at issue.  If the balance is up for grabs, however, expect things to get nasty.

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