Sotomayor and the Triumph of the Status Quo

Meet the new Supreme Court justice, same as the old Supreme Court justice

By Sara K. Smith
|  Friday, Aug 7, 2009  |  Updated 4:37 AM EDT
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Pride of New York: Sonia Sotomayor in Photos

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She'll change the way the Court looks, but she probably won't change the way the Court rules.

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Thursday marked a very historic occasion, an occasion of which we can all be proud! The Senate voted to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the nation's newest Supreme Court justice, making her the very first Hispanic woman ever to ascend to the highest court in the land.

It was a great day for superlatives of all sorts.

It was a great day for America, too: Democratic America, which got to pat itself on the back for championing an able judge from a humble background, and Republican America, which happily took a stand against the menace of "empathy" in spite of Democrats' warnings that they'd all be branded forever as racists.

The point is, change! Change has come to the United States, just like President Obama promised.

Except that Judge Sotomayor will (probably) constitute a reliably center-left vote on the Court, replacing the reliably center-left Justice Souter. The balance of the court has changed not one iota. We've still got a conservative bloc, a liberal bloc, and Justice Kennedy hanging out forlornly in the middle. So, going forward, we can expect more 5-4 votes on controversial issues like abortion, gun control, and all those other goodies that get both political parties jazzed every four years.

As many people have already pointed out, Sonia Sotomayor represents "change" in only the most superficial interpretation of the word. When it comes to her educational pedigree, her judicial experience, and her ideological position on the court (or what we can glean from her rulings, given that she wouldn't say much of anything in her nomination proceedings), she blends in so well with her colleagues that she'll be virtually invisible.

So fear not, Sotomayor opponents. Her appointment hardly suggests a radical turn for the left. In fact, it's just more of the same.

Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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