Sen. McCain has announced that he will vote against confirming Judge Sotomayor. He thus parts company with Lindsey Graham, his friend and (to the extent he has one) his go-to guy on legal matters.
McCain’s vote is based on his view that Sotomayor is “an activist judge” who “seeks to legislate from the bench.” He explained that “an individual who does not appreciate the common sense limitations on judicial power in our democratic system of government ultimately lacks a key qualification for a lifetime appointment to the bench.”
McCain becomes the latest Republican Senators from a red state with large Hispanic population to oppose Sotomayor’s confirmation. His Arizona colleague, Sen. Kyl, will vote against confirmation, as he did in committee, and so will Senators Cornyn and Hutchison of Texas.
These are principled votes. But they may also suggest that some pretty astute politicians doubt there’s much of a political price to be paid with their Hispanic constituents for voting against Sotomayor’s confirmation.
That view would, I think, be correct. Judge Sotomayor’s story and persona may resonate with New Yorkers of Puerto Rican ancestry, but it’s not clear she’s a big hit with Hispanics in the Southwest. Hispanic-Americans are far from being an electoral monolith. The The Democrats who blocked Miguel Estrada paid no political price, and I doubt that the Republicans who vote against Judge Sotomayor will either.
There’s a second trend worth mentioning: McCain, after making early noises about cooperating with Obama and the importance of elections, seems to be taking the “conservative, ” non-Obama side pretty consistently this session. In a sense you could say this is consistent with his past conduct. McCain wasn’t well disposed to George W. Bush after Bush defeated him and neither, it now appears, is he well disposed to the man who defeated him this time.
I think there’s more to it, though. It probably isn’t just that Obama defeated McCain. Obama did so in part by presenting himself as a post-partisan figure, rather than as a standard issue left-liberal. McCain may even have half expected that Obama would show occasional signs of independence from the orthodox liberal line.
Obama has shown virtually none, and McCain surely is not amused to have lost the presidency under “false pretences.” And when John McCain is not amused, he can make life unpleasant for those who are providing the non-amusement.
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