From Leonard Pitts, Jr. at The Miami Herald:
So Newt Gingrich now says Sonia Sotomayor is not a ”racist” after all. She must be trembling with relief.
Gingrich’s backpedaling came last week in an article on HumanEvents.com. It leaves just two high-profile Republicans, former Rep. Tom Tancredo and radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh, still clinging to that absurd allegation.
As you know unless you are just back from Antarctica, this sudden spasm of righteous Republican rage is because of a speech Sotomayor gave in 2001 about the role gender, ethnicity and other characteristics play in a judge’s judgment. ”I would hope,” she said, “that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
It is, yes, a wince-inducing statement. You might even call it a tone deaf and culturally chauvinistic one. But does it support comparisons to the Ku Klux Klan such as Tancredo and Gingrich have made? Not in a million years.
The attempt to paint Sotomayor as such represents more than political overreach. No, this is part and parcel of a campaign by conservatives to arrogate unto themselves and/or neutralize the language of social grievance.
Having no record of their own of responding compassionately to social grievance (ask them what they did during the civil rights movement and they grow very quiet) conservatives have chosen instead to co-opt the language of that grievance. And if what they did to the language of women’s rights and progressivism took some gall, what they are seeking to do to the language of race suggests a testicular circumference of bovine proportions. There is something surreal about hearing those who have historically been the enemies of racial progress define racial progress as looking out for the poor white brother.
We are, after all, talking about a man (Tancredo) who once called majority Hispanic Miami ”a third world” country, and another man (Limbaugh) who advised a black caller to ”take that bone out of your nose.” These are fighters against racism?
But they are in earnest, and there is a pattern here: The forces of intolerance seeking to redefine the parameters of a debate they can win in no other way.
There is to it a breathtaking cynicism and a willingness to manipulate for political gain one of the rawest places in the psyche of a nation. The goal is not to persuade. It is to muddy the water, confuse the debate. Because when you can’t win the argument, confusing it works almost as well.