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Post-Ideological? Not Quite

Mimicking the president’s focus on his nominee’s biography, the Washington Post tells a heartfelt tale about the hardworking outsider Sonia Sotomayor who, as it turns out, succeeded in large part by strategically using mentors to boost her career. Nothing’s wrong with that, yet neither does it bolster the spin that she is a brilliant jurist. But the jaw-dropper is the Post’s declaration:

Since her earliest years, Sotomayor’s identity has been inseparable from her ethnicity — from the sofrito she watched her mother and aunts make on Saturday mornings to the dozen years she spent on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, now known as LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

But this intense ethnic sensibility has not corresponded with intense ideological views.

The argument is ludicrous on its face, because of course the agenda of PRLDEF is the intensely ideological — from its opposition to the death penalty to its spirited defense of racial preferences. So what is the evidence for the Post’s claim that Sotomayor is non-ideological? She never registered as a Democrat, she married a non-Hispanic, and she didn’t wear anti-war buttons in school. Convinced? Me neither.

No mention is made of her speeches, which are rife with the ideologies of moral and intellectual relativism and ethnic determinism. No discussion of Ricci or her other controversial decisions, nor of her judicial methodology, which searches frantically for facts or blithely ignores them depending on what best suits her agenda.

But the Post gives a useful peek at the sort of platitudinous, feel-good rhetoric we can expect to hear at the confirmation hearings this week. Those who have concerns about Sotomayor should be prepared to query the nominee on specific cases and speeches, and press here on her often-repeated and bold ideological views. There is plenty of material to work with, despite the Post’s puffery to the contrary.