Something that I think isn’t well-understood among non-Latino pundits (with Jamelle Bouie an important exception) is the extent to which the conservative movement’s openly racist attacks on Justice Sotomayor poisoned the well with Hispanic voters.

Speaking in part from personal experience here, the tone and approach that the right took on this was simply shocking. And it’s made all the more shocking by the contract with Justice Kagan’s confirmation hearings soon afterwords. Conservatives didn’t like Kagan. Nor should conservatives have liked Kagan. Kagan isn’t a conservative and she was appointed by Barack Obama who’s also not a conservative. That’s a perfectly adequate basis for a complaint about a judge and it applied exactly as well to Sotomayor.

But Sotomayor, unlike Kagan, was subjected to a huge range of specious attacks on the basis of her race despite a record of service in public office that was considerably longer than Kagan’s. Nobody seemed interested in alleging that the white nominee was anything other than an intelligent hard-working individual who happened to have political and legal views at odds with what conservatives want to see on the bench. Sotomayor, by contrast, was judged to be a dimwitted bigot who’d managed to get ahead in life only in virtue of the massive advantages that we all know accrue to being born poor and Puerto Rican in the South Bronx. 

It was a totally bonkers episode that had absolutely no notional grounding in concern for the rule of law or low-income wages or any of the other policy matters that come up in the immigration context.