Listening, via the media, to the debate inside the Republican Party, you also have to wonder about the party’s commitment to a colorblind society. The Democrats’ too, but Democrats don’t carry on about colorblindness the way Republicans do. It’s clear that the one paralyzing fact about Sonia Sotomayor, to Republicans, is the color of her skin. If she weren’t Latino, they would be in full revenge-for-Clarence-Thomas mode. Instead, they are in an agony of indecision, with GOP strategists openly warning: Support the Latina or die. If the 40 remaining Republican senators end up voting for Sotomayor, her race will be the reason. Democrats, meanwhile, can enjoy supporting her for her impressive intellectual qualifications. They don’t even need to mention the obvious: that these qualifications aren’t the main reason President Obama picked her.
Yes, of course, ethnicity in politics is different from ethnic job quotas, and a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is a special kind of job. Nowhere is a bit of diversity more obviously desirable. Nowhere is the case stronger for taking race, ethnicity and gender into account. And conservatives apparently agree. If only they could bring themselves to say so.