Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Comentarios from Maria Cardona: “Latinos to GOP Conservatives: Be careful!”


Prominent conservative leaders are crazed looking for ways to bring down President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court – Judge Sonia Sotomayor  – who is the most experienced and best prepared jurist in 100 years.  She also happens to be Latina.  Newt Gingrich and conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh have called her a racist.  Former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo likened her to former KKK leader David Duke. This week, Mr. Gingrich tepidly walked back his pointed attack, but then we saw reports that conservatives are being told behind the scenes to keep them up.  We also are seeing criticism from former GOP leaders that Judge Sotomayor is not prepared to be on the highest court in the land.  Pat Buchanan said “she is not that intelligent.”  Tom Delay brazenly questioned her credentials.

While all of these extremist attacks do not represent all Republican elected officials, they are doing their party a huge disservice and Republican leaders need to forcefully speak out against them.  The party as a whole needs to tread very carefully or they risk another Latino voter backlash which could be the nail in the coffin for any kind of Republican resurrection.

Judge Sotomayor was top of her class at Princeton and Yale, Editor of Yale Law Review, a corporate litigator, a big-city prosecutor, a trial court judge, an appellate court judge – 17 years on the federal bench.  If confirmed, she will have been better prepared than any other Supreme Court judge at the time of their confirmation in 70 years.  To suggest that she was an affirmative action pick is not only offensive to Latinos and to women but I suspect to many who see this for what it is – a lowly and despicable line of attack by those who clearly do not understand that the “American dream” has produced right here in America and for America, a vastly capable talent pool that does not necessarily look like our founding fathers.

Now about her 2001 speech.  “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.”  A provocative, challenging comment?  Yes.  Racist or suggestive of superiority because of background?  Absolutely not.

Judge Sotomayor is talking to a group of Latino Law School students about what it means to have more Latinos and women on the judiciary.  It is a well thought out lecture that includes troubling statistics of the historic and continuous under-representation of women and minorities on the judiciary (today among the federal circuit courts’ 179 judicial positions, only 12 are occupied by Hispanics).  And she challenges each of the students to think about what being a woman or a minority will mean in their careers and if they become judges, what it will mean in their judging.

Judge Sotomayor also talks about how judges are trained and educated to keep their biases to a minimum and decide cases solely on their merits.  A perfunctory look at Sotomayor’s record makes it obvious she has done exactly that.

Then, as Judge Sotomayor is talking about her aspirations for herself as well as for other Latina lawyers, in using their diverse backgrounds for the greater good of the courts and of this country, she states that it is her 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.”

This is clearly not an absolutism, nor is it borne of racism or superiority.  It is actually borne out of an aspiration, or more accurately, a necessity – to be the best at what you do. The fact is, even today, if you are a woman and a minority, it is often not good enough to be as good as your peers, it is not good enough to be better than your peers – you have to be the best. Countless accomplished women of color in this country were told this over and over.  And I suspect they all believe, as they should, that their background and unique circumstances help make them better, and many times the best, at their profession than had they not lived those lives.  Judge Sotomayor has shown throughout her career that she is one of the best at what she does and that she got there by drawing upon her experiences and perspectives, and above all, applying the letter of the law, to judge each and every case on its merits.

This is a deeply personal, profound challenge to all minorities, especially to Latina lawyers.  She is saying, no matter how much progress minorities and women have made in this country and how much diversity has enriched the judiciary, they must always work to be better than they are.  They must challenge their assumptions every step of the way, check their prejudices at every turn, and strive to reach conclusions where different perspectives will enrich the discussion of all the legally relevant facts to more wisely inform each decision.  And that above all, they need to make decisions based on the merits of the case and on what the law demands, but they also need to always keep the pulse on what their decisions and opinions will mean outside of chambers.

So to conservatives obsessed with destroying an extraordinary woman who has lifted herself up by her bootstraps to become an incredibly accomplished judge:  Be careful.  Our community sees through your ruse and understands your personal attacks on Sotomayor are attacks on all Latinos who have embraced their culture and their background and fully integrated them into their professional successes, which have made this country better, stronger and more competitive. Continue on this path, and you are sounding the death knell for the GOP with Latinos and your party risks remaining in the minority for at least a generation to come.

Latinovations would like to thank our very own Maria Cardona for her contribution. Maria is a seasoned public affairs and communications professional with more than 18 years experience in the political, government, public relations, campaign, community and coalition building arenas. Named in 2001 as one of the country’s most influential Hispanics in the country, she is a well known political commentator featured on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Telemundo, and Univision. Most recently, she has been seen speaking about the historic Sonia Sotomayor nomination. Presently she works at the Dewey Square Group (DSG) – a premier national public affairs firm – where she has been a Principal since February of 2005 assisting DSG’s corporate, non-profit and trade association clients with strategic partnerships at the national, state and local level, especially within the Latino community. She is also co-founder of Latinovations, a practice area of the Dewey Square Group which focuses on the Hispanic community.



  1. I completely agree on every point that you have made. A lot of people are taking that quotation out of context and are publicizing it to no end. No one made a big deal when Scalia said during his nomination hearings that being the son and the grandson of Italian immigrants would affect the way he looked at immigration cases in the highest court because he would look at them and reflect upon his own experiences. Not wanting to admit that someone’s background is going to affect the way one judges cases is hypocritical at best. I don’t hear people mentioning the fact that Sotomayor dissented in a case where she was in favor of a White Supremecists’ right of distributing racist materials at work–all for the sake of freedom of speech. It’s kind of ironic that Jeff Sessions (a white male) is leading the crusade against her, given the fact that he was himself a member of the KKK in his 20s. This was brought up during his own confirmation through the senate and he still got confirmed—no problem. People keep saying “if Sotomayor were a white male, there would be a sh*tstorm and he would be called racists. Well, newsflash, there’s currently a sh*tstorm (conservative senators are actually considering filibustering her nomination) and people ARE calling her a racist, so she’s getting the same reaction that a white male would be getting.

  2. Samantha says

    Here, here!

  3. Sandra Benitez says

    It is interesting to hear these guys accuse Ms. Sotomayor as being a racist. They are accusing her of something they have been all their lives. If her life’s experience has taught her lessons in life isn’t that what life is all about: learning and trying to do better. I do not know much about her but I have read some very positive things in regards to education, professional conduct and speeches that are full of deep thought and experience. I believe a persons life experience is suppose to teach you better ways. I am not a Latina by birth but by a very wonderful 44 year marriage to a fine Latino man. I have lived some of the experiences she speaks of just because I married into another culture. I think these loud mouth “good ole boys” need to shut up and start listening to the real truth. I, personally, am tired of all this racist talk as it does no good for anyone. Variety has alway been the spice of life and the more diverse this nation becomes the better it becomes. So I say to the naysayers and out right liars,I have your number and know why you are behaving so discustedly.

  4. Bravo!