The Current Crisis

Sotomayor’s Flawed Reasoning

She's not a racist -- she's a supremacist.

By 6.4.09

Send to Kindle

WASHINGTON -- 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 mindset of Liberals who hold sway at the nation's law schools. Professor Barack Obama had the same point of view when he taught at the University of Chicago Law School, which he made clear back in the autumn of 2005 when as the junior senator from Illinois he voted against the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court. As Senator 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 Obama-like inscrutable.

The consequence of Sotomayor's and Obama's bigoted mindset 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 Sotomayor and 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 Sotomayor's and 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 Sotomayor's and 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 Sotomayor and 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 Sotomayor and 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 Sotomayor and Obama will simply suspend them. They seem to know what is best.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.