I want to add a footnote to Jeff Rosen’s discussion of Sonia Sotomayer’s Supreme Court candidacy. It would be a very good thing if Barack Obama were to appoint a Latino to the Supreme Court. I don’t say that as a matter of politics. He’s done enough in his cabinet and White House appointments to satisfy Latino voters. It’s a matter of democracy. Getting someone on the Supreme Court is one very important way our democracy registers the full acceptance of a social group in our nation’s politics. Think of the appointments of Louis Brandeis, Thurgood Marshall, and Sandra Day O’Connor. All of these appointments broke down informal, but real, political barriers.
Is Sonia Sotomayer qualified to be on Supreme Court? I’m agnostic on that subject--I don’t know enough about her--and if you read Jeff’s piece carefully, so is he. If she has the requisite abilities, and if her opinions are broadly those of Obama himself, then the President should certainly consider her. What if she is very good, but that there are more brilliant jurists around on the faculties of law schools? When Wilson chose Brandeis, he did choose the leading progressive jurist in America. But when Johnson picked Marshall or when Reagan chose O’Connor, there probably were other lawyers around who were more brilliant. Still, these were good choices and good for our country.
--John B. Judis