Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has laid bare a nasty rift in the Republican party.
Earlier this month I predicted that this would happen. (See my post from May 6, High stakes fight for Justice Souter's replacement.) It was an easy call, actually. Anybody who pays any attention to politics could see this one coming. And that surely includes Republican mucky-mucks. Nonetheless, I am gleefully suprised that, even though they knew beforehand that they were falling into a trap, the Republicans, driven by their narrow-minded political base, could not prevent it from happening.
Yet, here we are, with loud-mouthed right-wing agitators like Rush Limbaugh, Tom Tancredo, and no less a figure than Newt Gingrich (still twirling, twirling, twirling toward freedom) referring to Judge Sotomayor as a "racist" on par with the "Ku Klux Klan."
Check this video of Tom Tancredo stepping right up to the brink of an on-air breakdown on Rick Sanchez's CNN show.
That's red meat for the cretinous core of the Republican party.
But Republican senators are not exactly jumping on board the "Sotomayor is a racist" bandwagon. Today, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) condemned the harsh rhetoric, saying "I think it's terrible... This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent."
They're in a tough spot, those GOP senators. They need to find some grounds on which to object to Sotomayor; some basis for opposition that voters will find legitimate. The racist label doesn't fit the bill. Nut-job political base aside, that kind of stridency certainly won't endear the GOP to the larger pool of voters, let alone the fastest growing component thereof. Namely, Hispanics.
On the other hand, if they don't fight her nomination, they will pay a price with their wavering base.
And so, here they are, with the rabid neo-Confederates holding the whip hand --the very demographic they so carefully cultivated ever since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Here's the irony: if the Republicans had had a little message discipline, they might have been able to mount an effective opposition to Judge Sotomayor's nomination by using the old "judicial activist" line. You know, that tired old line about judges who "legislate from the bench." But Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo preempted that argument by shrilly bleating about "reverse racism."
And by raising the rhetoric to such volatile levels, they alienate most of the voting public and make it all the more likely that Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed.