Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Judicial Nominee Sonia Sotomayor

By Aaron M. Rodriguez

The Straw Man Editorial by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sonia Sotomayor at the mic Due to sheer frequency of use, those familiar with debate know most of the commonly employed logical fallacies. Fallacies are frequently used because they all attempt to secure an advantage in an argument, and almost all of them are intended to pull a subtle “fast one” on an opponent. On May 27th, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an editorial entitled, “A Hispanic First". The editorial built a “straw man” argument for the GOP by giving false reasons for their opposition to Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor. In fact, the MJS editorial is so clearly a straw man, I'm a little surprised that nobody has mentioned it thus far. The MJS stated,


“There had been talk of the GOP using President Barack Obama's nomination pick to make up ground lost in the past two elections. If this means a reasoned look at Sotomayor's judicial record, that is one thing. If it means shrill denunciation for politics' sake, the party should recognize that such tactics will not bring it out of the wilderness.”
I’m not sure where the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is getting their information, but I haven’t heard any talk about the GOP opposing Judge Sotomayor because they think it would help them stage a comeback. This, my friends, is a straw man because it deliberately sets up a weak argument for the other side for the purposes of easy defeat.

If the GOP really thought that opposing a Hispanic Judicial Nominee would help it win favor with the public, then these strategists need to be fired. By opposing a Sotomayor, the GOP runs a major risk of further alienating the Hispanic community – a community they need if they plan to win future elections. The GOP is not opposing Sotomayor because it’s popular or key to their victorious comeback, but because it’s the right thing to do.


Sonia Sotomayor's Speech at Berkeley

In a 2001 speech, Judge Sotomayor stated,


“I would hope 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.”
Her comment at Berkeley University is controversial for a very obvious reason – it has racist overtones. Imagine if Rush Limbaugh said that white males, due to their experiences and better education, were equipped to make better conclusions than blacks. Does anyone really believe that his comment would be swept under the rug regardless how much he tried explaining it? People are still talking about his comment of wanting President Obama to fail – a comment violently ripped out of context for political fodder. For Republicans not to oppose Sotomayor's judicial nomination on the basis of her 2001 speech or even her controversial ruling for New Haven firefighters would be an admittance that liberals get a do over, but conservatives don’t.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel goes further,


“But a nominee should not be judged on one ruling nor one remark. If, for instance, Sotomayor was saying - badly - that people with different experiences bring different understandings to situations, it is a fairly unremarkable comment. In other remarks, she says she would not "bend" the Constitution.”
Why is it that MJS is capable of giving Sotomayor the benefit of the doubt, but is quick to attack someone like County Executive Scott Walker over a mischaracterized stimulus position? Sotomayor didn’t say that her rich experiences as a Latina would bring her to different understandings of various situations, but rather to “better conclusions.” Different is not better, and an understanding is not a conclusion. Her speech was prepared and pre-scripted like so many speeches we hear. Sotomayor knew what she said and meant every word of it.


Final Thoughts on Judge Sotomayor

I am a Latino of Mexican-American decent. My grandparents migrated from Texas to Wisconsin because that’s where the work was. Much like Sotomayor’s parents, my grandparents were very poor. My father and his brothers slept on the floor, had rats crawling on wooden beams where their ceiling was supposed to be, and used the kitchen wall as a phone book. For me to say that my experiences as a Latino somehow equip me to make better conclusions than my white friends is not only ridiculous, but it’s racist. I agree with Sotomayor that my Latino experiences are different, but they are not better. There is no doubt that my understanding of Hispanic issues is different, but my conclusions are not better because I am a Hispanic. When it comes to the Supreme Court, Lady Justice ought to be blindfolded. When we start taking into account the relevance of skin color for Supreme Court appointments, at that moment we become bigots.
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