Sunday, May 31

Sunday Blogging To The Choir

ROY spotlights a Derbyshire entry at The Corner which quotes "a reader" sounding off on Judge Sotomayor's taking unfair advantage of her gender, heritage, circumstances of birth, and Ivy League credentials, to the detriment of a hardworking white woman from a state school in the High Plains. For the record, on the question of whether she's a figment intended to hoodwink, or merely ten pounds of metaphor in a two-pound bag, I believe she was not intended to be taken as real. On the other hand, I suspect Derbyshire invented the emailer.

Here "she" is, for the record:
Show me a Montana girl of un-useful ethnicity who put herself through law school waiting tables, after being left with two young children when her Army husband was killed overseas, and I'll start oohing and aahing over her compelling story.

So my first response, as I said a Roy's, was fine, another example of how little these guys know about the "real people" they limn; alternately, it's a cautionary tale about packing your mythical heroes with every bunting-draped attribute in the Reagan Anecdote playbook in the belief that doing so makes the case Black and White, you should pardon the expression. The seam side goes down! If it's not the first rule of Rhetoric, it's certainly the one you need the most work on.
Of course, such a person would never ever end up on any President's short-list, no matter if she graduated first in her class at her non-Ivy institution, no matter how extreme the intelligence and dedication and hard work she displayed over the subsequent course of her career. That's simply how the world — and especially the legal world — is constructed today.

Let's pick at a few random loose threads. Our victimized jurist must be white--apparently the bootstrapping African-American judge considers Hispanics a sort of subset of Big Affirmative Action, and is assuaged, or has found her nest feathered sufficiently that her story cannot compel your Derbyshire correspondent--but also female, since we have to pretend we're not simply reheating the same old can of White Male entitlement. This, though, raises the question of why our WWF is not embittered by the pair of White Male Ivies George W. Bush appointed to the Court. Since Reagan appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to the Court (a campaign promise), Republican Presidents have named six Justices, all male (five white, one Clarence Thomas). Reagan had one rejection and one withdrawal, both white males; Bush II nominated Harriet Miers, who was immediately shot down by his own party. Democrats, in that period, have now nominated two women and one white male. So you're gonna resent the nomination of Sotomayor in those circumstances? Peculiar standard.

Part two of her Accumulated Grievance Index apparently requires single motherhood, which she shoulders with gritty self-reliance. Of course the Reagan playbook dictates that she can't be a single mom through popping out lil' responsibilities without benefit of clergy, nor can she be shortchanged by a deadbeat father (Baby Daddy being a dark-hued term, and alimony a form of nanny-state appropriation of one's Hard-Earned Money; this thing is taking a lot of work for a couple of simple paragraphs, unless it all comes naturally). So daddy went missing in the War. Which makes her triply-put upon, since dirty hippies probably spit on his flag-draped coffin on the tarmac, at the expense--as some wag noted at Roy's place--of making our college-educated wife almost singularly unaware of the military death gratuity, VA pension, extended medical and dental care for herself and her children, Defense Department-sponsored survivor benefits, low-cost student loans and grants, as well as work/study programs which would have allowed her to find a less menial job more in line with her career path.

If the conversation would then be turned by people claiming that still, Derbyshire might have a point! however odious, as they themselves had experienced doors closed due to preferences for women or minorities, Riley would have none of it. It's a curious feature of all those ersatz Reagan arguments about that ersatz America he claimed as their previous address and his followers seek to return us all to: each one is distinct and sharply-edged; I think the academics use the term sui generis. Welfare sapped the souls of poor folks, but welfare for multi-national conglomerates created jobs. Smaller government equalled Freedom, except for Defense budgets. Deficit spending robbed our children and grandchildren, except when Republicans did it, so long as they remained popular. It's interesting that the original, legal argument over affirmative action--My test scores were higher!--has now become axiomatic. Meaning it conveniently applies whenever anyone other than a white male is selected for anything, so long as the thing is perceived as having some political benefit. Since when is the Court a meritocracy? We might tout the Court as the nine best legal minds in the country, if we are explaining the thing to preschoolers or feeling particularly perverse that day--surely no one who's read one of Justice Thomas' opinions can really believe it, just to use the easiest example. Presidents aren't required to nominate the best legal mind in the country anytime an appointment comes up, even if that could be quantified somehow. (Jeff Sessions--Jeff Sessions!--now tells us that Court nominees ought to be neutral!) Presidents nominate someone who fits their view of jurisprudence, and, presumably, one with a chance of surviving the confirmation process. You'd suspect that if anyone understood this it would be the American right, which has spent forty years trying to find anyone it can convince with its argument over "Originalism", and is now apparently racing against time to assure the rest of us that it's incapable of understanding anything at all. All I can figure is they're working on some sort of insanity plea.

If the Republicans left in the Senate can mount a purely political challenge and persuade enough Democrats to join in they can block the nomination. If they believe the "reverse discrimation, reverse racism" routine will do that, they're perfectly free to try (and please do). So how is addressing our unspeakable history of racial and gender discrimination unfair even on the face of it? You get your chance to reply.

Well, I mean "unfair in other than in the Reagan Anecdotal sense?" of course. It's a standard which only applies in certain circumstances: academia, Democratic Presidential appointments, anecdotal blue-collar or middle-management hiring practices in unnamed organizations are all subject to charges of reverse racism when white men don't get their way. I don't recall anybody calling Meg Whitman (former eBay CEO and staunch Republican) an affirmative action hire, or the product of preferential treatment for Ivies. I don't remember that when George W. Bush named Ricardo Sanchez commander of ground forces in Iraq one of Jonah's emailers wrote that there must be some Scots-Irish general officer somewhere who'd worked his way through West Point baling hay and now must be crying himself to sleep. I don't remember any of 'em demanding Washington draft a slow white-guy running back. Okay, except for Limbaugh. What I do remember is the bizarro-world crowing that the first Bush II administration was the "most diverse in history" and that anyone who called Colin Powell a liar or Condimelda Rice an incompetent proved that liberals are the real racists.

Whazzat you say? That's different? Sports teams, like business concerns, look only to hire the very best performer at any position? Take it from somebody who watched the Colts try to decide between Payton Manning and Ryan Leaf: there's more to it than that. It's not a matter of who scored what on the Wonderlic, though god knows we're addicted to putting big numbers on un-quantifiable experiences and pretending we've ranked 'em objectively. It's a goddam cliché that teams look for chemistry, that the veteran player who's lost a step may be a better fit than the rookie flash. Why wouldn't a faculty, or a particular field, desire diversity? Supposing your new ("new"--we've been trying to correct four-hundred plus years of injustice for almost forty, now--) geology department head or law school prof is only 98% as good as some rejected white male candidate? Suppose that by showing women, or minority students, that the doors are open you wind up recruiting someone who's 10% better than her testosterone-wielding counterparts?

I'm not saying that we've found the key that unlocks the stall to the Magic Flying Rainbow-Tailed Pony of Reasonableness. I'm saying the opposing argument is a jury-rigged white-male-supremecist argument that succeeds only when it's allowed to set the rules for the debate, and rule on the admissibility of evidence. That side went too long without real scrutiny, and as a result it's gone from Can't Carry a Tune in a Basket to today's profound deafness. Short of photographs turning up of a naked Sotomayor spending a relaxing afternoon at Michael Vick's dog park, she's the next Supreme Court justice. Oppose her how you will. But maybe you could save some of that "creative" energy to come up with a more compelling tale for your party.


R. Porrofatto said...

And the choir always appreciates it.

StringonaStick said...

Funny how the argument used to such good effect here (the 98% as good female/minority department chair leading to doors opening for recruiting female/minority students who are 110% as good) is rejected by the wingers, but is the basis of their anti-abortion claim (you could be aborting the next Einstein!.

I should know by now that expecting logical consistency is asking for more than they can deliver.

Joyful Alternative said...

The judiciary committee requires one Republican to vote for her, so I've read. So Arlen's battlefield conversion screws us in yet one more way.

And all I'd ask the judge, were I on the committee, is whether she'd order children strip-searched to look for scary-first-step-on-the-slippery-slope-to-death-by-meth-overdose ibuprofen.

Augustus Mulliner said...

"Republican Presidents have named six Justices, all male (five white, one Clarence Thomas)" -- nice touch, Dog, but I'd tweak your taxonomy a little:
"five white, one embittered white"