Judge Sotomayor – and All Hispanics – Deserve More Than Silence

Last week I was in Mexico City, and soon after my arrival I was thrilled to hear that President Obama had named Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.  As a woman, as a Latina, and as a Latina lawyer I could not be more proud of his choice.  It is an important step towards having a court that reflects the diversity of opinion that was intended by the founding fathers, which can only lead to a clearer – more balanced – interpretation of the law to the benefit of all Americans.  However, upon my return to the U.S. this week, I was greeted with the unpleasant news of all the race-baiting and hateful rhetoric that was being used against Judge Sotomayor. 

As a woman, as a lawyer, and as a Latina, I am extremely disturbed by the comments made over the past few week by characters like Tom Tancredo, Rush Limbaugh, and Newt Gingrich.  Mr. Gingrich’s comments are particularly disturbing because he is actually considered one of the Republican Party leaders.  Over the past few days Mr. Gingrich has tried to backtrack on his statements, but it is too little, too late.  An apology does not suffice because his comments are merely the latest example of an overarching attitude and practice on the part of the Republican Party.  The only way the Republican Party can begin to make amends with the Hispanic community will be by renouncing comments and people like Newt Gingrich with the same force with which the offensive comments are made.

As a political analyst, I am also disturbed by the blind anger and hate that seems to dominate Republican Party politics.  From a pragmatic perspective, the Republican Party just does not get it – the consistent anti-Hispanic rhetoric has cost Republicans countless Congressional seats and the Presidency.  It is no coincidence that Hispanic support for the Republican presidential candidate dropped an astounding 31 percent from 2004 to 2008.  Tom Tancredo, who continues to vociferously oppose Hispanics on the bench, Hispanics in leadership (the presence of Hispanics in general, it seems), forgets that he received only 1% of his own party’s vote during the Republican Presidential primaries, while his “left leaning” Republican counterpart, John McCain, secured the Republican nomination (secured in Florida, largely due to the Hispanic vote).

The aggression and hate that dominates their Party politics must go if Republicans intend to survive as a national party.  For example, today I noticed a piece posted by the DCCC, "Will Rep. Sessions Repudiate Gingrich’s Offensive Remarks about Judge Sotomayor?" in which Ryan Rudominer, National Press Secretary for the DCCC brings up an interesting point:

"Representative Pete Sessions has a simple choice to make, will he strongly denounce Newt Gingrich's shameful rhetoric or stay silent and just take his money…" "Representative Sessions needs to decide whether he agrees with Gingrich's offensive remarks or whether he will join fellow Republican John Cornyn in coming to the defense of Judge Sotomayor."

On June 8th, Newt Gingrich will headline a fundraising dinner to benefit Congressional Republicans. [The Hill; May 21, 2009.]

It is a fair question to ask – will the Chairman of the RNCC consider these comments “no big deal” and continue with Gingrich at his fundraiser?  Hispanic voters will be watching, and it is fair that they question – is this kind of race-based attack alright with Republican Party leaders?  And if Party leaders don’t come out firmly against these offenses, can we presume they agree with the hateful point of view that is expressed? 

As the saying goes, el silencio otorga.