One of those casual causal claims that irritate political scientists

Andrew Gelman May 29 '09

Michael Kinsley goes over the top with this one:

It’s clear that the one paralyzing fact about Sonia Sotomayor, to Republicans, is the color of her skin. If she weren’t Latino, they would be in full revenge-for-Clarence-Thomas mode. Instead, they are in an agony of indecision, with GOP strategists openly warning: Support the Latina or die. If the 40 remaining Republican senators end up voting for Sotomayor, her race will be the reason.

Yes, congressional Republicans have been nearly unanimous in opposing Obama’s economic plans. But that’s no reason to be so sure they’d be unanimous in opposing a white Supreme Court justice. Just for example, Stephen Breyer was confirmed on an 87-9 vote, and if the Republicans wanted to be in “full revenge-for-Clarence-Thomas mode.” that would’ve been a more natural time to do it. I know that Kinsley specializes in clever arguments, but in this case I think he’s too clever by half.

To put it another way: the simplest response to Kinsley is that he’s taking pure untestable speculation and claiming it’s simply true. A more nuanced response is that I don’t actually think his statement is true. Much depends on the particular nominee.