Democrats’ fears could drive Sotomayor off the Supreme Court

The madness of asking for the justice to step down, because her health may falter, blazes a new trail for political machinations, even in Washington. Pictured: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Photo Credit: U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite the bravado that many Democratic leaders display regularly, the internal party discussion reveals panic about their chances of retaining the White House after the November 5th election. The concerns inside the party are beginning to manifest to the greater public. Besides the poor polling that shows President Joe Biden in a neck-and-neck race with former president Donald Trump, in addition to rumblings that some would like to see Kamala Harris replaced, if not Biden himself, there comes the latest installment of dismay in the Democratic world in the form of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. 

The Democratic Party will never forgive Senator Mitch McConnell for holding up Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court at the end of Barack Obama’s term in office and they will never forget Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s refusal to give up her seat before Donald Trump could replace her and secure a conservative majority on the court. Democrats now fear that if Biden loses and Sotomayor remains on the court, another seat could fall into the hands of the wicked Republicans. 

At age 69, Sotomayor does not seem old, especially when many of her colleagues are much older and some justices have served well into their eighties, or in the case of Justice John Paul Stevens, until age 90. Unfortunately, research has been done, however, and Sotomayor has health issues and a family history of early death. Using this as ammunition, many Democrats are beginning to murmur, even speak aloud, that for the sake of protecting the seat, she should step aside. 

The first salvo in this debate occurred when Josh Barro, writing for The Atlantic, let it be known that Sotomayor’s responsibility should be to resign and allow Biden to appoint her successor while Democrats still hold the Senate. Barro, who also hosts a podcast, began to muse about this earlier in the year before putting his thoughts into an organized dissertation. His complaint about Sotomayor rests on the worry that she has reached an age at which the actuarial numbers come home to roost. 

The median age of death for an American woman may exceed 80 years, but health issues accumulate either disabling or limiting a person from full engagement much sooner. How many people have died over eighty years old, but have lived with dementia for years? Barro argued, “I thought Democrats had learned some lessons from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg episode about the importance of playing defence on a court where you don’t hold the majority. Building a cult of personality around one particular justice served to reinforce the idea that it was reasonable for her to stay on the court far into old age, and her unfortunate choice to do so ultimately led to Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment and a string of conservative policy victories. All liberals have to show for it is a bunch of dissents and kitsch home decor.”  

Mehdi Hasan, writing in The Guardian contended: “Sotomayor will turn 70 in June. Of course, only Sotomayor knows the full status of her health, still, it is public knowledge that she has had type 1 diabetes since she was seven; had paramedics called to her home; and is the only sitting justice to have, reportedly, travelled with a medic.” 

Hasan further insists that Sotomayor’s resignation will benefit Democrats and the country in three ways. First, although the replacement may be more centrist it beats having another Federalist Society “goon” on the court in 2025. Secondly, if the conservative majority goes to 7-2, the chance of progressives cobbling together enough justices to win a close decision disappears. The conservatives won’t only win most of the time, they will win every time. Finally, it may seem counterproductive to ask the only Latina justice to step aside, except a 7-2 conservative majority will hurt women and minorities more than keeping Sotomayor on the bench and risking her departure. 

Hasan closes with a warning that speaks to the sheer hysteria behind the closed doors of the Democratic Party: “Biden, elected Democrats, and liberals and progressives across the board should be both publicly and privately encouraging Sotomayor to consider what she wants her legacy to be, to remember what happened with RBG, and to not take any kind of gamble with the future of our democracy. Suppose insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. In that case, I’m sorry but a liberal Supreme Court justice about to enter her 70s and refusing to retire on a Democratic president and Democratic Senate’s watch is nothing short of insane.”

I have no interest in offering Democrats or progressives advice, but I am happy to point out a couple of curious observations related to this effort to oust Sotomayor. Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal is in favour of Sotomayor’s sacking. The good senator began serving in the U.S. Senate in 2011 and at age 78 has given no indication that he will not run again in 2028 at age 82. And do Democrats in favour of disposing of Sotomayor lack the awareness to notice that their standard bearer, Joe Biden is about to turn 82 while simultaneously asking for a new four-year lease on the presidency? The madness of asking for the justice to step down, because her health may falter, blazes a new trail for political machinations, even in Washington. 

Fueling the fire, some of these political operators have imagined a two-for-one deal. They propose banishing Sotomayor and nominating Kamala Harris as her successor ensuring she does not drag down the presidential ticket any further. This would allow Biden to select a new Supreme Court justice and get a mulligan for one of the worst vice-presidential selections in modern history. 

I am unsure what this would all accomplish, but it appears the Democrats are in full-mode meltdown. Even with Trump in court and sidelined from campaigning they are still stumbling over ways to improve Biden’s standing in the nation, especially in the battleground states where this election will be won or lost. Truthfully the election will likely be won in Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan. Trump leads in all three and if he can win in these states and Georgia (which seems a lock) he will have successfully undone Biden’s 2020 triumph. This probably explains why Sotomayor’s health and Supreme Court position have become hot topics in the legacy media. By November we will know if these concerns bear any resemblance to reality. At that point, Democrats will have to start doing something many in their base no longer practice or value – praying for Ms. Sotomayor’s good health and leaving her future in God’s loving care.

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