When Dick Morris once punditized that Condolezza Rice could take siginificant voting chunks away from Hillary Clinton because she was female and black, Steven Warshawsky of American Thinker famously quipped in response:
[T]his is nothing but crude identity politics masquerading as political analysis.
If Erick's source is correct about the reasoning the White House is using to arrive at a Garza SCOTUS nomination, it appears that forces within the White House have fallen prey to the same seductive, yet false political reasoning that Warshawsky rightly skewered. Not only will nominating Garza to the SCOTUS not be effective, politically speaking - if he is nominated simply because he is Hispanic, it is also the wrong thing to do.
Now, it will fairly be noted that I'm not above playing dirty in politics to win. I fully realize that there are critical issues at stake, and winning elections matters when it comes to implementing the policies I believe in. However, before I'm willing to engage in the kind of politics that's not necessarily completely on the high road of ideology, I like to make sure that the tactic I'm using works. The reality is that mordern history has shown us that playing identity politics has little to no efficacy.
Remember when the fight at hand was the fight over Clarence Thomas? The conventional identity politics wisdom of the time was that the Democrats would not dare to bring out the bloody knives against an African American - and if they did, we'd really be driving a wedge between them and their base. Turns out that didn't really work so well, as a virtually identical percentage of the black vote voted Republican in 1992 as they did in 1988. The percentage voting Democrat actually INCREASED from 83 to 86, a statistic which is made all the more startling considering the third-party candidacy of Ross Perot in 1992. In contrast, when Clinton had two opportunities to appoint SCOTUS justices, he did not select an African American for either. This hurt neither his percentage of the vote in 1996, nor Al Gore's in 2000.
Now, as Erick has noted, Hispanics are a very different ballgame, politically, in that they have shown to be much more receptive to party change, based on personality. It's also difficult to judge a historical reaction to Democrat character assassination, since the only case study currently available to us is Miguel Estrada, who is hardly a household name within any demographic group. However, I challenge anyone to provide a single historical incident of identity politics being successful. Whether we're talking Geraldine Ferraro, Clarence Thomas, or whoever, whenever these games are tried, they tend to fail miserably. I contend that if it ever will actually be successful, it will be through the basis of an elected nomination, not an appointment.
But even granting the assumption that this time it might work, I still maintain that it is the wrong thing for us to do, for at least two reasons.
First, the very discussion that we are having here gives ammunition for the other side to use against us. "You see?" they will say. "They're just trying to impress you by nominating tokens. Don't be fooled, they don't really have your best interests at heart." When we start seriously discussing putting forth a candidate on the basis of his race and not his qualifications, we immediately lose any credibility with the people we're trying to impress. What's more, we deserve to lose it.
Which ties in nicely with the second reason why this kind of politics is wrong. We've taken quite a political beating over the last several decades for rightly standing up against racial discrimination, which some other people call "affirmative action" or "quotas." Remember all those arguments? Remember how employers should choose the most qualified person regardless of race? Remember how it's insulting to minorities to assume that they can't perform at the same level on their own? Remember how it's ludicrous to punish the children for the sins of their great-grandparents?
I didn't just say all of those things, I believed them. And for us to so openly and blatantly surrender them now for the sake of some cheap (and probably ineffective) play at a segment of the Democrat vote is degrading to the integrity of our party. If that's how little the principle really meant to us, we could have given up fighting affirmative action a long time ago, and done ourselves a lot more political good in the process.
It may be that Garza is the person best qualified for the job - I don't know enough about him to make the case very strongly one way or the other. If he is, then I'm glad to let him have it without a peep. But what I won't be on board for is nominating him because he's Hispanic and we think that'll be a clever thing that will help us next November.
I say it's wrong, and further that it won't work.