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RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.: Calls for Justice Sotomayor to step down are disrespectful — and ungrateful

What does the Sonia Sotomayor telenovela tell us? For one thing, it reveals that liberal Democrats — when trying to hold on to power — can be a ghoulish bunch.

Some on the left are running a kind of futures market speculating about whether the 69-year-old Supreme Court justice will die on the bench and leave Democrats in the lurch. They worry about a repeat of what happened in 2020 when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and left a vacancy on the high court to be filled by President Donald Trump.

Better for Sotomayor to retire at the end of the court’s current term, these lefties say, so as to give President Joe Biden the chance to name a liberal replacement. Politicians, law professors and liberal advocates have made that very argument in recent weeks.

During a recent appearance on CNN’s “Smerconish,” professor Paul Campos — who ironically enjoys tenure at the University of Colorado Law School — argued that Sotomayor should retire. As Campos sees it, this is all about politics.

“There is a very significant possibility that Joe Biden will not be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court during his second term because of Republican control of the Senate and there is also a significant possibility that Donald Trump will be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court if he were re-elected president and the GOP controls the Senate,” Campos said. “The chance that one or both of those things will happen is so high that it just simply isn’t worth it to take that kind of risk.”

Speaking to NBC News, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who at 78 is nine years older than Sotomayor, said this: “We should learn a lesson. And it’s not like there’s any mystery here about what the lesson should be. The old saying — graveyards are full of indispensable people, ourselves in this body included.”

Molly Coleman, executive director of the progressive People’s Parity Project, also suggested that Sotomayor step down. “This isn’t personal,” Coleman told NBC News. “This isn’t about one individual justice. It’s nothing to do with what an incredible legal talent Justice Sotomayor is. It’s about what’s in the best interests of the country moving forward.”

Now that Democrats have signaled “ageism” is no longer off limits, has anyone on the left noticed the Democratic Party is ready to nominate a presidential candidate born during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt? They think 82 is just fine but 69 is too old?

Efforts to push Sotomayor toward the exit before she is ready to leave are not just unseemly and inappropriate. Given that Sotomayor holds the historical distinction of being the first Latina to ever ascend to the Supreme Court, they’re also ungrateful and disloyal to a constituency that has always delivered for the Democratic Party.

Even when Democrats offered up presidential candidates who were mediocre or uninspiring (i.e., Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004), Latinos have had their back in a big way over the past 60 years. Most recently, Biden won about 60 percent of the Latino vote in 2020 and Hillary Clinton won more than 60 percent in 2016.

In return for this allegiance, Latinos have been taken for granted and let down by the Democratic Party over and over again — on immigration, education, voting rights, police reform, the economy, you name it.

A few weeks ago, Biden traveled to the Southwest and flatly declared that Trump, his likely GOP opponent, “despises” Latinos.

Speaking as a Latino, I definitely get that vibe from Trump. But now, because of the campaign to oust Sotomayor, I get the same feeling about Democrats.

Or, I should say, some Democrats, given that there is pushback within the party — much of it from Latinos. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., came to Sotomayor’s defense in a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter: “Forcing the only Latina on the Court to retire isn’t going to get us a liberal majority back.”

Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., also took to X and echoed that sentiment: “Justice Sotomayor has been a trailblazer for the Latino community and has every right to serve on the Supreme Court until she makes the decision that it is best for her to retire.”

No one disagrees that Sotomayor has been loyal to progressive political causes. Now it’s time for progressives to show her some loyalty in return. Democrats are already losing Latino voters, polls show. Do they really want to lose more? They need to drop this conversation. Now.

Ruben Navarrette can be reached at crimscribe@icloud.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

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