The XX Factor

Is Sotomayor the New Alito?

Now that the insulting question of whether Sonia Sotomayor is just another Harriet Miers has subsided, a new one arises: Does Barack Obama’s nominee have more in common with conservative justice Sam Alito? Liberals opposed Alito far more strenuously than they did current Chief Justice and George W. Bush nominee John Roberts. An Italian from working-class roots who also attended Princeton, Alito wields the same, “up from the bootstraps” personal history as Sotomayor. And-much like the Obama administration’s emphasis on its nominee’s ” wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life’s journey “-the Bush White House stressed Alito’s disadvantaged background heavily during the “rollout” of his nomination.

So was Alito helped by the same “identity politics” that critics of Sotomayor now decry? Did Roberts merely benefit from being a classically white-bread American male? And what exactly is this “life experience” hoo-haw that everyone keeps mentioning when discussing U.S. law?

Reihan Salam, a prolific journalist and critic discussed this and more with me on a recent Bloggingheads. Watch: