The Campaign Spot

In the Matter of Johnson v. Smith, the Court Renders a Verdict of ‘Cuchi-Cuchi.’

CQ: “Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor delivered multiple speeches between 1994 and 2003 in which she suggested ‘a wise Latina woman’ or ‘wise woman’ judge might ‘reach a better conclusion’ than a male judge.”

Well, this blows up the “she misspoke” defense.

Look, there are few people out there who don’t feel a few frissons of ethnic pride, and express some variation of “I’m part of this group, and we’re known for doing this well” at one point or another. You see among Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, among Germans during Oktoberfest, Chinese at their culture’s New Year, Jews at Passover, Cinco de Mayo, etc. (Try not to draw any conclusions from the fact that so many of my examples include drinking.)

But when Sotomayor says a “wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion,” she conflates two separate issues and seems to hope the audience won’t notice. One is experience, and many of us would agree, a varied set of experiences in life probably gives one a broader range of knowledge and better perspective. (There are limits to this phenomenon; this is why Joe Klein’s assessment of Charles Krauthammer’s body of work warrants disdain.)

But a wise person with the richness of experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.

With praising experience, Sotomayor slips in ethnic or gender identity, which doesn’t necessarily help you make a better conclusion. Within every group, you’ll find those who come to good conclusions and those who come to bad conclusions; to argue otherwise is to insist that good judgment is carried within a certain type of melanin or certain reproductive organs.

But the logical endpoint of this line of thinking — that wise Latina women are more likely to reach better conclusions by their very nature of being Latina women — is Supreme Court Chief Justice Charo.

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