The Hard Politics Of The Soft Sell

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In selling Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the American people, the White House political team and their allies hope to increase the cost of opposing her. Her Hispanic-American heritage will be used as a wedge to provoke Republicans into fighting other Republicans, but the germane quality here is her story -- an example of rising above and beyond her community to achieve great things while being rooted in the values of that community. 

At issue will be the GOP's level of respect for Hispanics at a time when the gap in support between the two parties is huge and growing.  Anti-immigrant sentiment remains the culprit, so the White House will try to exploit any disrespect towards Sotomayor. This might not be fair, but it's politics. 

Watch for the White House to tailor outreach to conservative Hispanics and Catholic Hispanics, emphasizing certain aspects of Sotomayor's life. The hope is to ratchet up internal pressure within the Republican Party to tamp down their criticism, as though Republicans cannot afford to alienate someone who the majority of Hispanics will view as a hero and a pathbreaker.

In addition to the Hispanic Box, as it where, the White House hopes Republicans are mindful of gender, as well -- Sen. Jon Kyl might want to be more careful with saying things like judges shouldn't be making decisions based on "emotions or feelings." If it sounds like we're going back to college to debate gendered conceptions of American law, or whether women naturally bringing a more empathetic perspective, well, yes, we are. 

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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