Why are Senate Democrats so afraid of conservative judicial nominees who are African Americans, Hispanics, Catholics, and women? Because these Clarence Thomas nominees threaten to split the Democratic base by aligning conservative Republicans with conservative voices in the minority community and appealing to suburban women. The Democrats need Bush to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court whom they can caricature and vilify, and it is much harder for them to do that if Bush nominates the judicial equivalent of a Condi Rice rather than a John Ashcroft.These are strong charges. The other side of this coin is that Bush may nominate minorities precisely to create this dissonance for the Democrats. There is no end to the complexity of the two parties' use of race as they fight for power. It's a shame, but it's reality, and we should be ready to look at all sides of it. Calabresi is participating in the struggle from one side. He has some good points, of course, but he's not standing back and trying to describe the whole complex struggle.
Conservative African-American, Hispanic, Catholic, and female judicial candidates also drive the left-wing legal groups crazy because they expose those groups as not really speaking for minorities or women. They thus undermine the moral legitimacy of those groups and drive a wedge between the left-wing leadership of those groups and the members they falsely claim to represent.
Take Janice Rogers Brown, who won reelection to her state supreme court seat with a stunning 76 percent of the vote in one of the bluest of the blue states, California. Or take Priscilla Owen, who won reelection to the Texas Supreme Court with a staggering 84 percent of the vote in Texas. It is Brown and Owen who represent mainstream opinion in this country--not the Senate Democrats who have been using the filibuster to block their confirmation to the federal bench. If Brown or Owen were nominated to the Supreme Court, the record suggests she would win the ensuing national contest for hearts and minds. Best of all for conservatives, Senate Democrats would be forced by their left-wing interest groups to go down fighting these popular minority and female nominees. At a bare minimum, Republican Senate candidates would acquire a great issue for 2006.
Thus the driving force behind the Democrats' filibuster of conservative minorities and women is political--driven by a desire to protect the party's advantage with minority and women voters and cater to left-wing interest groups. Democrats are also driven in part by their odd belief that "real" African Americans and Hispanics and women cannot be conservative.
April 30, 2005
Lawprof Steven Calabresi has this piece in the new Weekly Standard: