Sotomayor’s Confirmation: A Victory for the Right?

Now that Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed by a vote of 68 to 31, it’s never too early for the right-wing groups that vehemently opposed her nomination to start claiming victory:

The final vote was “a triumph of party unity over some of the interest group politics that you would have expected to play a bigger role,” said Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, which opposed Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation.

But that is nothing compared to the spin contained in this lengthy memo that the Judicial Confirmation Network released before the final vote was even taken, proclaiming its opposition campaign a monumental success by making Sotomayor the “most unpopular confirmed Supreme Court nominee ever,” “refuting the liberal judicial activist philosophy of the President,” and, most importantly, frustrating liberal left activists:

Although Judge Sotomayor was confirmed, it was not a resounding victory for the liberal view of the Court: in fact, just the opposite. Because she failed to uphold the liberal view of the Constitution and judging, she has made it more difficult for future Obama nominees who would attempt to be more intellectually consistent and honest. President Obama, the darling of the liberal left, failed – when he had the greatest capital to spend on a nomination of his choosing – to put a powerful and unabashed liberal lion, in the mold of Justice William Brennan, on the Court.

This has unnerved the liberal left and put President Obama into a box. Judicial restraint has won, and judicial activism has lost. Some who voted for Judge Sotomayor, such as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), specifically did so because he concluded she was “not an activist.” Although Sen. Nelson plainly made an analytical mistake, at least he had the right goal in view. Accordingly, future nominations promise to focus on the nominee’s actual adherence to the practice of judicial restraint. And future liberal activist nominees who have not penned the inexplicable, analysis-free opinions that Judge Sotomayor generated in important cases may find their records harder to hide from.

31 “no” votes in the U.S. Senate.

It’s remarkable, and a real show of strength for proponents of judicial restraint, that the negative vote on this nomination was so high. The “historic” nomination of the first Hispanic nominee to the Court, made by the purportedly “post-partisan” President Obama, who at the time enjoyed high personal popularity and was still in his post-inaugural honeymoon, with a commanding 60-vote supermajority of Democratic votes in the Senate, could not muster even close to the 78 “yes” votes that Chief Justice John Roberts received. The 31 votes against Judge Sotomayor are the highest “no” vote on any Supreme Court nominee picked by a Democratic president since 1894.

And this record opposition to a Democratic nominee occurred on a straight up-or-down vote, following a nomination process that Judge Sotomayor herself said was fair and respectful; Republican Senators never stooped to the common Democratic tactics of personal attacks and obstruction. They asked tough questions, reflected thoughtfully, and discharged their constitutional job of “advice and consent” promptly.

So, despite the Right’s relentless attack campaign, Sotomayor was confirmed by a 2 to 1 margin and will now take her place on the Supreme Court?

Well then, by all means, congratulations on your resounding victory, JCN.

UPDATE: The Committee for Justice has released its own equally delusional statement:

“The engagement of the Second Amendment community will long be remembered as the most significant aspect of this confirmation battle. Although the NRA’s decision to oppose Judge Sotomayor and score her confirmation vote got the most attention, the grassroots mobilization of gun owners from the bottom up is probably the biggest story. As a result, gun rights emerged as the most influential issue in this and probably future Supreme Court confirmation battles.

“By adding a large and influential constituency to the coalition opposing the nomination of judicial activists, the Second Amendment issue has forever changed the political dynamics of the judicial confirmation process.

“Republican senators should be proud not only of their votes today, but also of the tough but fair questions they asked Sotomayor during her hearings and of the powerful floor statements they made in opposing her. As a result, Americans got the teaching moment they deserved. For the first time since the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, the confirmation battle saw a serious debate about judicial philosophy and the proper role of judges, rather than just an argument about case outcomes.

“[T]he living Constitution is now dead as a defensible judicial philosophy outside academia. There is no doubt that judicial activism will live on surreptitiously in the courts, but it is doubtful we will ever again see a Supreme Court nominee who has openly espoused it, no less one willing to defend it during his or her confirmation hearings.

“Finally, it has been a bad summer for the purveyors of identity politics. Not only was the President forced to beat a hasty retreat from his old-school, victim-based take on last month’s incident in Cambridge, but his Supreme Court nominee denied any knowledge of the race-base theories of judging she and other liberals have long championed. Meanwhile, Democrats failed miserably in their attempt to convince Republican senators that they opposed a Hispanic nominee at their ‘own peril’ (quoting Sen. Schumer). Polls showing that Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites shared the same unimpressive levels of support for Sotomayor generally, as well as the same levels of specific concern about her Second Amendment record, dealt a further blow to identity politics. Those of us who believe that racial favoritism has no place in law or politics should celebrate.”