If Elana Kagan is successfully appointed to the Supreme Court, she would be the fourth current justice to have grown up in New York City. Of these, she would be the only one from Manhattan. Specifically, Kagan hails from the well-to-do Upper West Side neighborhood, a sharp contrast with the working-class Queens and Bronx homes of Justices Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor.
So when conservatives attack Kagan for her New York City roots, arguing that this disqualifies her from serving on the Supreme Court, are they using "New York" as shorthand for the Upper West Side? Or are they really so misguided as to forget the other three New York justices? More to the point, what's so bad about New York anyway? Here are the conservative arguments against Kagan's New York roots, which try to address those questions.
- Does Birthplace Make Her a Bad Pick? The Washington Post's Kathleen Parker emphasizes, "though we are what we do, what we do is not all of what we are. We are also products of place. Where we grew up and how we experienced the physical environment of our formation are also a part of who we are." To wit:
The president adheres to the ordinary-people principle, and so the question must be asked: Does Kagan meet the standard? She may have other qualifications, including her willingness at Harvard to invite conservative scholars to her faculty. But a New York City girl who attended a prep school, Ivy League colleges and law school -- who once barred military recruiters from Harvard's recruitment office and was an adviser to Goldman Sachs -- can't be characterized as anything close to mainstream America. Either Obama may want to tweak his operating narrative -- or geography may well be Kagan's wound.
- 'Remoteness' From 'Most Americans' The National Review's Ed Whelan laments "Elena Kagan’s remoteness from the lives of most Americans," citing a Washington Post article that called Kagan "such a product of New York City that she did not learn to drive until her late 20s." Whelan explains, "I’m ridiculing the mismatch between President Obama’s populist rhetoric (which I think is misguided and insincere) and the reality of the Kagan pick."
- Her 'Liberal Elitist' Background Rush Limbaush laments the whole Kagan history. Media Matters picked out this bit:
This woman Kagan, she supposedly is there to make sure the court deals with the despised and the downtrodden, with the despised and the poor, and so forth. She doesn't know anything about it. She's lived at Harvard; she's lived at Hyde Park in Chicago, inside the Beltway, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As is the case with all liberal elitist theoreticians, they have no clue how real Americans live, they think they know how Americans ought to live. And that is what they want to use the judiciary for. They're totally animated by their prejudices and their biases.
- Jon Stewart: New York Hates You Too, Rush Back in April 2009, Stewart hit back.
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This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.