Sonia Sotomayor: Educate and then Confirm


by John Mark Reynolds [author, academic]

Sonia Sotomayor is President Obama’s pick for the court. From the point of view of conservatives, she is probably as good a pick as President Obama was going to make. Something new may come out about her, but if not conservatives should give the reasons they think her judicial philosophy is mistaken and then move on.

She is a mainstream liberal and President Obama was not going to pick a conservative. Winning Presidents should (as conservatives always say!) be given broad latitude in their selections.

There are obvious positives to her selection for all Americans. Her life story is fantastic and it is a good thing to see a Latina on the court. Unless conservatives learn something new about her those who favor a less activist court might as well keep their powder dry for another fight.


First, conservatives have very limited power in Congress. This is not a fight conservatives can win unless something new comes out about Sonia Sotomayor.

Second, stopping Sonia Sotomayor would just lead to a different appointment that will probably be worse. While she was not really the choice of President George H.W. Bush, she was the choice of Senator Daniel Moynihan (in a deal with the first President Bush over New York appointments) and Moynihan was a reasonable person who was unpredictable in some of his left-of-center views.

Of all the appointments President Obama was likely to make (imagine the horrific governor of Michigan on the Court!), this one has the best chance to pull a reverse-Souter (a drift right) and present some pleasant surprises to conservatives. Of course, Sonia Sotomayor is likely going to be a conventional liberal, but she has staked out few opinions on hot-button social issues.

Third, Sonia Sotomayor is unlikely to change the intellectual drift of court opinions. She replaces Souter, a left-of-center mediocrity, and is, from all reports, smart, but not an ideological “difference maker” in her opinion writing. If Souter can sit on the Court, then why can’t Sonia Sotomayor?

Fourth, opposing the first Latina on the courts is bad politics with no possible gain.

Fifth, there are other big issues before Congress right now where conservatives can make a difference. Hugh Hewitt has pointed out medicine as one such area. Limited resources should be used in winnable fights.

Obviously on many issues that matter to traditional Christians, especially abortion, she is unlikely to side with pro-lifers, but she has almost no track record on the issue. Pro-lifers have gotten the best they could hope for . . . someone who has not been “red hot” to push the culture of death and make it a signature issue. Who knows maybe she is a closet pro-lifer. I suggested in an earlier post that Obama might appoint a social conservative (on life) and destroy the Republican coalition for years.

Souter was not pro-life, so what is the loss?

We lost any chance for gains in 2008. Imagine a pro-life justice replacing Souter and you can think for a moment what could have been. Next time don’t let anyone tell you elections don’t matter!

One issue in the election of 2008 was the appointment of new justices to the Supreme Court. Conservatives lost that election and losing has consequences. This is one of them. Conservatives should calmly argue against the Obama judicial philosophy and save the hot rhetoric for an-almost-certain to come next pick.

This is a good time to educate voters on the difference between a Scalia and a Sotomayor view of the court. In 2012 the issue can be put before the voters again. ExileStreet

copyright 2008 John Mark Reynolds

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola University.His personal website can be found at and his blog can be found at

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