LatinaLista — As the final arguments for confirming Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina Supreme Court justice get underway, it’s very apparent that Republican opposition has everything to do with trying to show Obama who’s the boss in Congress and less with accusations that Sotomayor is an “activist judge.”
Social media links people.
We saw that when Republican Senators started falling like dominoes in pulling support for Sotomayor after the NRA said they would score against those senators who voted for her.
And we see it today where the Republican leadership appears to be tiring in their opposition to Sotomayor that they’re not even trying to hide the real reason anymore.
In a morning floor speech ahead of the debate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged that Sotomayor has an “impressive” rÃ©sumÃ©. But he countered Democratic arguments for Sotomayor by citing “the so-called empathy standard” as the main reason he plans to vote against her when the nomination comes to a floor vote scheduled for Thursday. He referred to Obama’s campaign comments identifying empathy as a key factor in choosing a Supreme Court justice.
Yet, empathy is an important quality for everyone to have — even judges who implement the law and not make it. In fact, empathy is much more in practice today than just three years ago — a fact that will soon be the undoing of the Republican Party if they don’t get on board in this age of social media.
A year ago, I remember feeling very frustrated with the outreach of the Republican Party. Most of the candidates who were running for office had no idea what new media entailed or how to use social media to their advantage. Their outreach to bloggers, with the exception of Mitt Romney’s campaign, was a joke. They weren’t sure what bloggers were or what we did or that we served any kind of purpose. Their opinions of everyone else who happened to be online seemed worse.
They were doing things so “old-school.” Once McCain became the candidate for the party, it was obvious they tried to catch up to the Obama campaign in upgrading their website and their outreach. They succeeded to an extent, but unless everyone is on board with social media, it doesn’t do any good if only the 20-somethings on staff know how it works.
It’s painfully apparent that Republicans still don’t have a firm grasp on social media and what it means to them for future elections. Otherwise, they would be a lot wiser in their opposition to candidates and issues that matter with Latino voters, since Latinos are accelerating in their usage of social media.
This realization became very clear yesterday during McCain’s speech on why he wasn’t voting for Sotomayor. In the text of his speech, he revisited the congressional witchhunt against another Latino candidate for a justice position — Miguel Estrada.
As McCain so rightly pointed out, Estrada’s life story is as equally compelling as Sotomayor’s bio and he would have equally done the Latino community proud had the Democrats not filibustered him seven times.
Yet, compared to the support for Sotomayor, Estrada didn’t have anywhere near the support that Sotomayor enjoys. While the Democratic party would like to think that’s because Estrada was a Republican candidate, it has more to do with the facts that 1. Estrada was being appointed to be a justice on the court of appeals, not as high-profile as a Supreme Court position and 2. Estrada’s nomination and the filibustering occurred before blogging and social media had really taken off.
If Estrada’s nomination was being debated today, chances are the Democrats would have felt the heat from the Latino community in going against Estrada.
Social media hasn’t just allowed Latinos, not just bloggers but online users too, the opportunity to network with one another but to educate each other about ourselves, our beliefs, our lives and our causes. In the process, we are developing a different kind of empathy that didn’t exist 6 or 7 years ago.
It’s an empathy that binds online communities, of all sizes, and serves as the motivator to write about it and post it on Facebook and MySpace, cross-post it to other blogs, create a cause or Twitter about it.
It’s an empathy that enables news to spread faster than ever before, retold/reposted by people on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter — reaching online users of all ages and citizenship status.
We saw this phenomena reach its peak in the Latino community with Obama’s presidential campaign and we’re seeing a resurgence of it with Sotomayor’s nomination because an empathy towards Sotomayor has been created due to the high volume of social media activity and community pride over her nomination.
In other words, it’s personal for the Latino community as was Obama’s run for the presidency and as it will be when those Republicans who vote against Sotomayor, just to vote against Obama, will find out when they run for office.
Social media among Latinos is only growing and memories are getting longer. Republicans running for reelection should not be surprised if they find themselves working against Latino voters that are united by a shared empathy to memories of candidates that disregarded the feelings of the Latino constituency for the express purpose of trying to create a Waterloo for President Obama.