Gonzales and Political Gain With Hispanics:

My intuition that there is little political gain to be had with Court appointments is reinforced by this story during the filibuster of the Miguel Estrada nomination, which reinforces my perception about the low salience of these sort of political questions regarding the courts:

Mr. Bendixen's poll found that 28 percent of Hispanics support the nomination, while 11 percent opposed it and 61 percent weren't aware of the nomination or didn't have an opinion.

He said that, based on listening to some of the poll interviews, it was clear many of those who supported Mr. Estrada were also confusing him with actor Erik Estrada, who was on the 1977-1983 television police drama "CHiPS" and is now a popular Spanish-language soap-opera star.

"Many of them think President Bush nominated Erik Estrada — I'd say a good third think that way," Mr. Bendixen said, adding that he heard one person say Mr. Estrada should be confirmed because he did such a good job playing a policeman on "CHiPS."

Republicans' own numbers confirm that most Hispanics aren't aware of the situation. A poll released last week of 800 Hispanics, taken by Alexandria-based Latino Opinions and not limited to registered voters, showed that just one-third were aware the Estrada nomination is pending and being blocked.

I suspect that the American public in general was even less aware of all this than those in the poll (of course, most Americans probably couldn't recall either Erik or Miguel). Of course, the Supreme Court is much higher-profile in the public's perception, but it does raise doubt in my mind about the likely political impact of such an appointment on Hispanic voters.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Gonzales and Political Gain With Hispanics:
  2. Supreme Court Nominations and Political Gain:
I would contend that survey suggests a little more on the opposite--if 39% of respondents had even a clue that there was a Hispanic nomination battle in some federal court, that would be surprising to me--not that I'm insinuating that Hispanics are ignorant of political news but more that, well, for most people, life does not revolve around federal courts in general. That the Estrada nomination even showed up on the radar screen demonstrates that the issue has some significance. Also, note that this poll was not one of likely or registered voters. Those that paid attention to it are much more likely to be voting types. Sloughing off the 50% of America generally that does not participate in the political process, these numbers show nominations can be significant.

Just as importantly, while it's unlikely that, say, Bush I ould get a demonstrable "Thomas bump" or something like that, it is all part of the general soup of political evolution. Thomas's nomination surely made it generally easier for conservative blacks to feel more at home with voting conservative as a long-running trend over the last 15 years. There's just no way to measure that statistically, but at the same time, black voters certainly know Thomas is up there, so Supreme Court nominations are by no means under the radar.
7.7.2005 1:56pm
Con (law) Man (mail):
I'm not sure the conclusion follows from the premises. The relevant question with respect to political gain, it seems to me, isn't "are you aware that a Hispanic has been nominated?" as much as "would you be more inclined to support the party that put the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court whoever that person is?" Surely by election time politicians will have made sure that Hispanic voters understand that the GOP put the first Hispanic on the Court.

Also, it seems reasonable to assume that the nomination of the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court will generate more interest than the nomination of a (the first?) Hispanic to the DC circuit.
7.7.2005 2:10pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
There is another problem with the belief that a single pioneering appointment will make much of a difference. First, don't forget that up to a third of Latinos already supported the Bush ticket--the numbers vary with the polling outlets and analysts, but a third is a good number. That means that if the polls suggest that 33% of Hispanics will think better of Republicans because of such a nomination, there is no traction. Worse still, should the nomination fail, many of the supporters would turn away because of perception that the nominee was sacrificed for some other goal.

But, putting all that aside, there is a danger specifically with nominating Gonzales. So far, aside from Linda "Slave-driver" Chavez, who has no traction with Hispanic voters (she's perceived as a "non-Latino Latino", coming from an old Spanish family), all of Bush's promotions of Hispanics have centered on one man--Alberto Gonzales. Estrada could have improved the record, but he fizzled (see above on failed nominations). Even Chavez was nixed rather quickly because of "domestic worker" problem (although hers was far deeper than the Clinton nominees who just failed to pay taxes). That only highlights the fact that Gonzales is the lonely Latino star in the administration, and this goes back to the Texas gubernatorial years as well. If anything, this will lose voters! Repeatedly promoting the same candidate smacks of tockenism, and the Democrats and minority leaders have been very good at picking up on this theme--just recall all the jokes about the 2000 Republican convention.

Judicially, Gonzales might not be a bad pick. Politically, it gains little and loses some. But it might be a relatively smooth pick if a serious Senate confrontation is to be avoided. Of course, Dems just might get crazy and filibuster anything that comes down the pipe, which will only increase the chances of an ideological conservative being eventually appointed. That seems to be the best reason to pick a moderate as the first pick--if opposition quickly becomes shrill then this will give a green light to the replacement nominee and the nominee for the next opening. Don't forget that a lot of groups were aghast when the Senate approved the Kennedy nomination after roasting Bork, because they considered Kennedy to be less rhetorical, but more ideological conservative. Kennedy might have mellowed in his old age, but his initial conservative credentials were quite solid.
7.7.2005 2:34pm
"...all of Bush's promotions of Hispanics have centered on one man—Alberto Gonzales."

Buck, you're forgetting Carlos Gutierrez, whom Bush picked to head up the Commerce Department (and, before he was elected to the Senate, Mel Martinez who was in charge of HUD). Not that either of those facts will necessarily provide a groundswell of Hispanic support for the GOP in the future, but you're simply wrong to assert that Gonzales is the only Latino Bush has promoted within the administration.
7.7.2005 4:17pm
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