Wednesday, May 27, 2009

two is not enough

President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court will accomplish at least one thing: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will no longer feel quite so lonely.

Obama would clearly have been in some trouble had he not nominated a woman for the seat. Here's my question: will there be repercussions if he picks a man for the next vacancy? (Assume here that the next vacancy is not Ginsburg; obviously her replacement must be a woman.) When John Paul Stevens - who joined the Court when Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts were in college - finally retires, will Obama be expected to name a third woman to the Court? And after that - a fourth?

Given that women comprise 51% of the national population, a representation rate of 2/9 is still quite miserable. And 3/9 won't be good enough. I'm not saying that the percentage of women on the Court must precisely mirror national demographics. But the figures also shouldn't demonstrate a blatant and dramatic bias - which they will until women hold more than a third of the seats.

But at what point do people start saying "so many women in a row! Give men a chance!"?

This is a real problem with historically entrenched discrimination. Any systematic attempt to correct it inevitably looks like a new form of ("reverse") discrimination. Does Obama have the political fortitude for that?

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