Victimhood is powerful

Yesterday I wrote about one not terribly attractive side of Sonia Sotomayor — her tendency to embrace whatever leftist theories and fads blow through her consciousness. Now, the release of many of Judge Sotomayor’s speeches has revealed an even less attractive side — her embrace of victim status for herself and for Hispanics generally. (The two tendencies are related, of course, since claiming victim status ranks at or near the top of leftist thinking about life and politics).

Consider three examples. First, in a 2002 speech at Cardozo Law School, Sotomayor stated:

As accomplished as I have been in my professional settings, I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up and always concerned that I have to work harder to succeed. This is a pathology of successful Latinos and other accomplished individuals who come from economically deprived populations.

It’s doubtful that the kind of drive (or “driven-ness”) Sotomayor describes here should be considered a “pathology.” In any event, it is fairly common among high achievers and medium-to-high achievers from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds; Sotomayor provides no basis for believing it is particularly prevalent among successful members of any particular group. The phenomenon probably has its roots more in a person’s relationship to his or her parents than to ethnicity or economic status.

Part of Sotomayor apparently wishes she didn’t work so hard. That’s normal. But blaming the drive that induces her to work so hard on her ethnicity and economic status seems closer to being pathological than the drive itself.

Second, in a speech to the National Puerto Rican Coalition in 1998, Sotomayor said:

We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color blind way that ignores those very differences that in other contexts we laud.

In her “Wise Latina” speech, Sotomayor called this tendency “very confused.” But it is Sotomayor who is confused, as well as intellectually sloppy. There is no contradiction, or even tension, between (1) being happy that America has become the home of many ethnic groups and enjoying the cultural, culinary, and other benefits of that diversity and (2) believing that people should be judged as individuals when it comes to awarding educational and employment opportunities, for example. When conservatives and others argue in favor of colorblindness, they aren’t arguing in favor of being oblivious to cultural differences; they are arguing only in favor of eschewing a spoils system based on those differences.

Sotomayor has invented a double standard to whine about.

Third, Sotomayor’s speeches show her to be an inveterate “bean counter.” In her “Wise Latina” speech, she complained:

As of today we [Hispanics] have no Supreme Court justices, and we have only 10 out of 147 active Circuit Court judges and 30 out of 587 active district court judges. Those numbers are grossly below our proportion of the population.

But of course, federal judges are not drawn from the general population, they are drawn from the population of attorneys and other law school graduates. And the high level of Hispanic representation in the general population is driven by the arrival of so many recent immigrants. The fact that recent immigrants, most of whom are low-skilled workers, and their children aren’t graduating from law school and becoming federal judges at the same rate as the rest of the population is not surprising, much less alarming.

Sotomayor’s bean counting extended to the judicial confirmation process. In 2001, in her “Wise Latina” speech, she complained:

In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities.

Sotomayor was, of course, among these “victims.” But during this period, much of which corresponded to the waning years of the Clinton administration, the Republican controlled Senate was moving slowly on most court of appeals nominees, particularly the ones Republicans considered the most liberal. Meanwhile, Clinton was nominating a high percentiage of women and minorities, most of whom were quite libieral, for the courts of appeals. Sotomayor’s bean counting does not take this into account. Moreover, Sotomayor in a more candid moment stated that the hold-up of her nomination was the result of the perception that she is a liberal, and that her ethnicity actually worked in her favor.

Finally, it should be noted that the waiting periods Sotomayor complained about in 2001 increased dramatically thereafter when Democrats systematically blocked, and in some cases filibustered, President Bush’s court of appeals nominees. Most of those filibustered or otherwise blocked were white. But I don’t recall Jim Haynes, Priscilla Owen, Brett Kavanaugh or the others mentioning race as a factor. Such a suggestion would have been ridiculous, just as Sotomayor’s was.

Sotomayor’s readiness to claim victimhood, both for herself and more generally for members of her gender and her ethnic group, may help explain why she apparently had little time or “empathy” for Mr. Ricci and the other New Haven firefighters. This same propensity likely would affect the way Sotomayor decides certain cases before the Supreme Court. After all, Sotomayor insisted during the same speech in which she counted the beans that “our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.”

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