- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009


Liberal opinion is now heavily engaged in belaboring Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh for calling the Prophet Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a racist. The proximate cause for this charge is Judge Sotomayor’s 2001 statement to an audience at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law that “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.”

Well, possibly the bigotry inhering in that line does not rise to the level of being racist. So will the critics accept the appellation supremacist? Based on the meaning of Judge Sotomayor’s statement, supremacist certainly applies.

Yet if Judge Sotomayor disagrees with me, I guess she is right. After all, I am a white male, and according to her she, “a wise Latina woman” will “more often than not reach a better conclusion” than I. Now what kind of a society have we arrived at through Judge Sotomayor’s reasoning? It is a society in which some groups are superior to others, namely, wise Latinas are superior to the rest of us. That is not what I call progress over intolerance, bigotry or, for that matter, stupidity.

Nonetheless, this is the mind-set of liberals who hold sway at the nation’s law schools. President Obama had the same point of view when he taught at the University of Chicago Law School, which he made clear back in autumn 2005 when, as the junior senator from Illinois, he voted against the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court. As Mr. Obama saw it, Judge Roberts lacked the background to judge with “empathy” on a range of issues from affirmative action to abortion to something about the Commerce Clause - on that something he was Obamalike, inscrutable.

The consequence of Judge Sotomayor’s and Mr. Obama’s bigoted mind-set is that they are by definition right, and those who disagree with them are wrong. This is classic ipse dixit reasoning, which is to say: reasoning based solely on the assumed superiority of one’s standing. Again, this is the reasoning of a supremacist. It is intolerant, bigoted and surprisingly stupid.

The position does not hold up to rational analysis. According to Judge Sotomayor and Mr. Obama, a person whose life experience has included a select series of privations is better-equipped to judge that experience than persons who have not undergone those privations. This novel way of viewing privation is right out of the 1960s youth culture and the radical left. It is a flawed argument generally recognized as “argument by assertion” or “argument from authority.”


One could argue with equal cogency that a person who has suffered these privations is unable to make wise judgments about them. Arguably, the deprived person has been traumatized by privation. In fact, such claims were made by some social scientists before the 1960s. They assumed that persons from impoverished backgrounds lack a wider perspective on life. Thus, the deprived person could not judge bourgeois life clearly or impartially. Only a “wise person” free of this experience of privation would be capable of prudent judgment.

By Judge Sotomayor’s and Mr. Obama’s reasoning, the best doctors for treating cancer are doctors who have suffered cancer. The best counselors for treating alcoholism are reformed alcoholics or, possibly, practicing alcoholics. An even more illuminating reductio ad absurdum of Judge Sotomayor’s and Mr. Obama’s position is this: The best counselor against suicide is a “wise person” who had attempted suicide.

The problem with their position is that it assumes we are all prisoners of our experience, except for Judge Sotomayor and Mr. Obama, who have somehow transcended their experience. The rest of us cannot think objectively. In fact, we cannot read the law or the Constitution unimpeded by our backgrounds.

Yet Judge Sotomayor and Mr. Obama are here to guide and to govern. At some point, perhaps, we will get over this middle-class idea of holding elections. Or maybe Judge Sotomayor and Mr. Obama will simply suspend them. They seem to know what is best.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor for the New York Sun and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.

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