June 4th, 2009
10:58 AM ET

Identity politics in the age of Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/26/supreme.court/art.scotus.soto.02.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama last week introducing Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court."]
Abigail Thernstrom
Special to CNN

Some of us thought the election of Barack Obama as president might signal a fading away of the old identity politics.

The assumption that fundamental lines of division in politics are set by race and ethnicity would seem to be a bit passé when 43 percent of white voters cast their ballots for a proudly "post-racial" African-American.

But the president himself has made identity politics front-page news with his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his Supreme Court nominee. She played an important role in the New Haven firefighters' case (Ricci v. DeStefano) now awaiting decision by the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor and two colleagues simply brushed aside the important constitutional and statutory questions raised by the city's decision to discard the results of a race-neutral test given to applicants for promotions within the department. Too many men of the "wrong" color had passed it - that is, all of those who scored highest were white except for one Hispanic.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. earle,florida

    Re; shameless," Not", but shameful,"Yes"

    June 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Lampe

    Where were are of you when HRC, and Gov. Palin were being disrespected? I don't remember half as much outrage about the treatment of those two women, as I do about someone who said what she said, putting herself out there for people to demand answers for her racist comment.

    June 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  3. earle,florida

    America's political system has been,and always will be,since the very first colonist a labyrinth of ill-gotten, but necessary bureaucracy. It is the layman's price levied for a "Democratic Republic",with nepotism it's only shameless sin! Those in power indulge in our direction,as the moral compass with-in all of us to freely choose our leaders,so too, do the leaders choose our path. This is our Democracy, with all it's warts,scars,and wrinkles,and by far the best government money can buy,...?

    June 4, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  4. Samson-Ugandan/Canadian an Southern Afghanistan Veteran(CF)

    Pres. Barack Obama's: direct speech by the president was an excellent, addressing the issue by speaking out about Arab and Jewish relations, rather than in back door closed meeting and solving by the use of money paying off the Arabs like in the past leaders in the united states and european countries. I love you to tell me my problem than paying me off and shut off my mouth. The same in Afghanistan, the pastun people don't understand, mostly the NATO forces are doing in Afghanistan, they even don't know who is president Karzai who is their leader. President Obama should speak such address matters to the Afghanistan Pastun people addressing counter-terrorism fourteen point program to stop terrorism in Afghanistan by the Taliban and the middle east particularlly al-qaeda and the taliban in pakistan in swat valley.All the commanders in Afghanistan should hold local council conference in local villags in Panjway, Zahri and Kandhari province, Helmand province and Maywand province to Iranian border, and drug production in Southern Afghanistan. Samson.

    June 4, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  5. Melissa

    Its only identity politics to decide to judge Obama's choice in Sotomayor on such because they WANT to do so.

    Sotomayor is well qualified for the job due to her work history. Her being a woman and latina is beside the point (though quite an ingenius political move) and I wish people would quit obsessing about it in this country.

    June 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  6. Mike in NYC

    The ridiculous notion that we were going "post-racial" lifted the spirits of many a guilt-ridden, self-hating White liberal - living, as most do, in a very White neighborhood - who was hoping that maybe, just maybe, "they'd" finally be satisfied.

    Sorry, kids, but that kind of change just ain't coming. Not now, not ever.

    Identity politics is fine in my book, as long as Whites get to play. If they don't, it's like bringing a penknife to a gunfight.

    June 4, 2009 at 11:43 am |