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Republicans’ cluelessness about social media mirrors party’s ignorance of Latinos

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.”
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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” résumé. 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.

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  • laura
    August 4, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Hola Marisa, I’m sorry I completely disagree with you on this. I want to support Latina/os who will move the country forward. I do not want to support Latina/o versions of Clarence Thomas. Alberto Gonzales personifies the disastrous results of supporting a candidate just because they are Latina/o, regardless of their history and political positions. As one of the co-authors of memos that tried to legitimize torture under the Bush administration, he is a blot of shame on the Latina/o community. An Attorney General who is forced to resign in disgrace is not a credit to latina/os.
    If Republicans have ideological differences with Judge Sotomayor that preclude them voting for her, as John McCain appears to have, that is their prerogative.
    Moreover, I would think empathy and social media are categories from different arenas. Empathy is the ability to imagine what another person is feeling, to be able to place oneself in their position and feel their emotions. I don’t think it has to do with social media on the internet. Some of the most empathetic people I know don’t even know how to use a computer.
    In fact, I would argue that the more time people spend in front of a computer and the less time they spend in the company of other people, the less they practice empathy. Seeing another person’s responses, hearing their actual voice, being close enough to touch them, all facilitate empathy.
    Though I would agree some people are incapable of empathy no matter how closely they are confronted with another human being’s suffering. I don’t know whether John McCain is incapable of empathy, but if so, I don’t think it’s because of his lack of interest in social media. Maybe his cushioned life in seven houses has more to do with it.

  • cookie
    August 5, 2009 at 7:57 am

    It is utter arrogance that any ethnic group should think that politicians should pander to their group by disregarding a certain basic criteria for appointing a Supreme Court Justice just because the potential appointee is also of their same ethnic group.
    The Republicans who oppose Sotomayer have made themselves clear as to why they oppose her and their reasons are completely valid. As I said, if this where a white male judge who had made the same statements that she did, Latinos would be all over it and screaming racism and biasness at the top of their lungs. I have never seen such hypocricy and ethnocenricism as comes from the Latino community in this country. This attitude has got to change or the future of this country is doomed.

  • Traci
    August 5, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Marisa, you can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that the Republicans would oppose any liberal judge, regardless of race/ethnic group. It is you who are making a race/ethnic issue out of this, only because she’s Latino. I haven’t seen any proof that they are opposed to her because she is a Latino. If she were a black liberal or Asian liberal and the Republicans opposed her you wouldn’t even make this an issue. To anyone except a Latino who needs a topic for her blog, this is just old fashioned politics, and nothing more.

  • Evelyn
    August 5, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    This is the result of
    “Republicans’ cluelessness about social media mirrors party’s ignorance of Latinos”
    Republican Party Has Become “Cash for Clunkers”
    The Republican Party is disintegrating in front of our eyes. The latest Gallup Poll has them leading in party identification in six states. Six! They’re tied in two. That means they’re trailing in 42 states!
    They’re down by 2 in Texas and Kansas, 12 in North Carolina and Virginia, and 16 in Kentucky. Virginia and Indiana went from “Competitive” to “Solidly Democratic” — since 2008. If you thought 2008 was bad, these numbers would lead you to believe that 2010 might be even worse.
    Now, I can’t believe that this will hold up given historical precedent and the fact that the Republicans can be on the attack on every issue since they don’t control any of the branches of government. They might be able to blame anything and everything that goes wrong on the Democrats and make some temporary gains in 2010 (though so far the numbers do not indicate that at all). But in the long run, these state by state numbers spell absolute disaster for the Republicans. The reckoning can’t be far. I would guess it hits them — and hits them hard — by 2012.
    In California, the Republican Party is 79% white. What’s the big deal? The state is only 43% white. If you’re basically a whites-only party in a state where whites are the minority, well, then you’ve got trouble. Unrecoverable, nearly permanent trouble.
    But, of course, as you can see from the Gallup charts, it’s not just in California. The Republicans are fighting a losing battle all over the country demographically. By losing the Hispanic as well as the black vote (let alone Jewish, Muslim and gay vote — should I keep going?), they have put themselves in a hole they can’t get out of.
    But it’s not just the demographics (and the Republicans stubborn unwillingness to adjust to these realities). They’re also wrong on almost all of the issues. How long can you fight to make sure our health care system does not get reformed before people catch on to you? How long can you fight every program that helps the poor and the middle class and protects the rich before the majority of the country gets sick of you? How long before they realize that you do not have their best interests in mind?
    Is there a popular program in America that the Republicans have not at some point opposed? Social Security? Medicare? Civil rights movement? Even, Cash for Clunkers. And now ironically they have become Cash for Clunkers. The corporations, the lobbyists and the rich keep pouring cash in to their campaign coffers, but increasingly all they’re getting back are clunkers. Maybe it’s time to trade them in.

  • Indiana Bob
    August 6, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Yo Cookie,
    We’ve been through this, but I will try again.
    At his confirmation hearing, Sammy “The Fish” Alito made the following remarks in his opening statement on how his experience as an Italian-American influences his judicial decision-making (click on my name for the video):
    But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, “You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country” . . . .
    When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.
    Ya gotta love these here internet tubes for debunking right-wing wacko talking points.

  • cookie
    August 7, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Minorities have always been mostly Democrats. This is nothing new and it because the Democratic party pushes all kinds of social programs and handouts. It has nothing to do with the Republican party supposedly being made up of racists. Try looking into the real reasons why the Republicans oppose the Democrat’s policies and ideas rather than just calling them stupid racists representing only white rich people in this country.

  • Jose
    August 7, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    “At his confirmation hearing, Sammy “The Fish” Alito made the following remarks in his opening statement on how his experience as an Italian-American influences his judicial decision-making (click on my name for the video):…”
    So one man’s failings should be used to justify a Latina’s? The argument that Alito’s mistatements (if indeed they should be characterized as such) should be used to excuse SM’s fails the test of logic. If true, both should be rejected, assuming the validity of the concept that a SCOTUS justice should base his/her decision solely on the law and nothing else.
    Calling Alito names does nothing to prove your point, IB, but does much to expose your immaturity.

  • cookie
    August 8, 2009 at 9:39 am

    I agree Jose about Alito but at least he didn’t say “I think as a white male judge with the richness of my experiences would more than likely come to a better conclusion that a female Latina judge”. That brought it to a new level of racism and sexism.

  • zaragoza
    August 25, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I agree with Jose.

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