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Sotomayor Confirmation: A View from Way Outside the Beltway

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I have not commented on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, because I was not certain there was anything more to say. After all, I am not a constitutional scholar; I have not read her opinions. I am not "inside the Beltway."

Oh, wait! That's the whole point. As someone outside the Beltway at times I see things that insiders miss. Washingtonians would be amazed at how often those of us out in the hinterlands watch their actions and proclaim in amazement, "What are those people thinking?"

And so it is with the Sotomayor nomination.

Here are the only relevant points:

• She is undoubtedly intellectually qualified for the job, as demonstrated by her education and the near unanimous reviews of the quality of her work on the bench.
• She is a woman, nominated to a Supreme Court that has one woman member out of nine -- and has had only had two in the nation's history.
• She is Hispanic, nominated to a Supreme Court that has never had a Hispanic member.
• She has been nominated to two federal courts before -- once by a Republican and once by a Democrat -- and confirmed by the Senate, with eight currently sitting Republican senators having voted for her confirmation.
• No personal disqualifying factors have been revealed as she has been vetted.

Every senator should look at those factors and say, "Okay, I'm voting for her."

That is not to say that they must agree with all of the positions she has taken. It is not to say that she has not made some controversial statements, some she might even wish she had never uttered. It is to say that she is probably more qualified than any recent nominee for the Court. And she represents two demographic groups that are grossly underrepresented -- and that she deserves confirmation.

Two sets of Washington actors are withholding their support. One I can understand -- sort of. Those are the senators who want to wait to hear what she says. I don't see why it is necessary -- we have learned nothing new in judicial confirmation hearings since Clarence Thomas, and look how that turned out -- but at least it is understandable. Due diligence or whatever. I hope that most of those will come along soon.

The other set amaze me. This set is represented by Texas Senator John Cornyn, by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and by Rush Limbaugh. They seek to inflame the debate by turning this nomination into a matter of race, admittedly looking for a "hot button" issue. And they should be ashamed. They of the party that has defined racism for half a century. They of the party that seeks to divide, not unite the country. Their hypocrisy defies explanation.

And the key point here -- written far from Washington -- is that it will not work.

The people of this nation understand what they are about. They want to build the base of their party. But the socially conservative, play-to-race base of the Republican party is a minority within a minority. If they persist in this exercise, they will doom their own party to the fate of earlier parties -- the Federalists, the Whigs -- that did not understand the nature of change in this nation.

President Obama wants this nomination voted on before the August recess, so that Judge Sotomayor can join the Court as it prepares for the October term. And that should happen. Her time from nomination to confirmation should be about the same as that of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, both about 70 days.

And she should be overwhelmingly approved, because not only moderate Republicans but also economic conservatives in the GOP should come to realize that their party's future depends on not opposing this nomination. Those outside of the most isolated parts of this country who vote against confirmation will certainly hear that when they return home in August.

L. Sandy Maisel is director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College, Waterville, Maine.