Unless something truly unexpected happens, Judge Sonia Sotomayor will today be confirmed as the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. While a significant political victory for President Obama, it does not represent a serious shakeup in the court's composition, as we have a moderately liberal justice replacing a moderately liberal justice.
21st Century Jeffersonians can easily be of two minds about this. On the one hand, President Obama won the election with a significant mandate from the nation and, therefore, has a certain right to appoint whomever he wishes to the court, so long as the Senate gives its approval. And it must be frankly admitted that Judge Sotomayor is a highly-qualified candidate, having been a federal judge for fifteen years.
Still, there are some concerns. In terms of constitutional law, America has wandered too far from solid grounding in the Constitution. 21st Century Jeffersonians are, by and large, strict constructionists when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, tempered by their desire for far more frequent amendments to the document, and new constitutional conventions once every generation to rewrite it completely.
The first fight over an Obama nomination to the Supreme Court generated far fewer fireworks than we might have expected, but it is clear that Republicans missed a tremendous opportunity in the debate over the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor. Rather than examine her judicial philosophy and use the hearings as a platform to debate the sound interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court, Republicans instead engaged in childish attacks on a few obscure comments Judge Sotomayor made in the past, including some attacks with had a clear racial tinge to them.
Had the Republicans made their stand in the debate on such foundations as actually matter- namely, how the Constitution is to be properly interpreted by the Supreme Court- and had they conducted the debate in a civil manner, then the country would have benefited greatly. Let's hope this happens the next time President Obama has to appoint a new member to the highest court in our land.