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Sotomayor’s Confirmation—What Her Victory May Cost the Republicans

Conservatives tried to convince the Senate, and the nation, that an impressive judge with an impeccable record was simply a product of affirmative action. It didn’t work.

By Peggy Simpson for the Women’s Media Center, reprinted with permission.

The confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as the third woman and first Latina to sit on the Supreme Court never was a done-deal.

It might look like it from the 68 to 31 vote of approval in the Senate Thursday.
But there were bumps along the way, potential derailments that were dealt with and some bizarre resurrections by conservatives of Reagan-era complaints that white males were victims of affirmative action policies that benefit women and minorities.

Here’s what helped Sotomayor clinch the job:

  • impressive coalitions by liberal advocacy groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, with feminist and reproductive rights groups stifling initial qualms about their uncertainties about her views on abortion;
  • unwavering support from Team Obama, especially in the midst of early accusations by conservative activists that she was a racist or worse, when even some supporters were nervous about remarks she made in 2001 about the virtues of being a “wise Latina.” She never apologized or took back those thoughts but did acknowledge a “poor choice” of words;
  • most of all, her own steady performance before the cameras in hearings that had been expected to feature fireworks but instead bordered on boring. Boring was good, in this context. Behind the scenes, Sotomayor visited with an unprecedented number of senators and by all accounts was a charmer. She carried that civility and personal touch into the Senate hearings with gestures, smiles and mini-conversations with GOP senators she knew would oppose her.

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