The argument about Sonia Sotomayor consists of the idea that we should discount her career and her degrees because those are just the results of the kind of “preferential treatment” that poor Puerto Rican girls from the projects get. We’ve also heard that she has a troubling fondness for Puerto Rican food. That it’s unreasonable that she pronounces her name as if it’s a Spanish word. We’ve heard that she’s a soft-hearted woman who wants to set aside the law in favor of empathetic victims, and also heard complaints that she’s failed to set aside the law in order to help out empathetic white people. These kind of criticisms are going to drive Hispanics away from the conservative cause not because conservatives are criticizing a Latina, but because they’re criticizing her in terms that imply a generalized skepticism about the qualifications of all American Hispanics, a loathing of Latin culture, and a monomaniacal obsession with defending the interests of white people.And then there's Tom Tancredo claiming she's in the Latino KKK (whatever that means). Here's my opinion: honestly, Obama is probably not going to gain too much from this pick. There's probably not much to gain: he got almost 70% of the Latino vote. Maybe there are some marginal gains to be had here, and certainly picking the first ever Hispanic justice could help cement the Democrats' hold on Latinos, to some extent. But the political advantages for this pick are easy to overstate--after all, picking Sarah Palin was supposed to deliver disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters to the GOP, and the end result was that Obama managed an almost threefold improvement on John Kerry's votes among women. Symbolism can help but not too much. In other words, a mostly united GOP vote against Sotomayor would probably not hurt the GOP any more among Hispanics than it is already hurting, so long as she is confirmed such vagaries will not be relevant, and the confirmation wouldn't mean that Obama could take Latinos for granted.
However, there is significant peril if the GOP loses control of its message and this turns into McCain-Kennedy, Part II, in which unhinged wingnuts and talk impresarios turn the discussion away from substance and in a nakedly xenophobic/racist direction. There are valid reasons to support immigration restriction, and there are valid reasons to oppose Sonia Sotomayor. But those reasons, in both cases, seem to be almost irrelevant to conservatives, who prefer to take the rather odious tack they've chosen. This will have consequences. This is all sort of a no-win for Republicans, so the best they could do is keep things restrained. Since it's wingnut bloggers and talk blowhards who run the party now, that isn't not an option. These folks literally can't help themselves.