Tokenism isn’t a good way to solve society’s problems of inequality, but it generally is a good sign of commitment to diversity or a particular group. In particular, when factor’s affecting a groups membership are so extreme that they don’t have one member of group Y, then it’s a generally a sign that those factors are out of control. I certainly have yet to hear anyone prominent who claimed “I’m politically incorrect and I don’t think we need token representation from group X” and then didn’t later complain that a group they belonged to wasn’t represented enough (evangelical Christians, I’m looking at you).
Which is simply about John Roberts, and the fact that he’s a rich white Christian man.
Pundits have been lamenting the elitism of SCOTUS nominees for some time. Which is funny, because it’s also popular to say SCOTUS shouldn’t be democratic. The ideal SCOTUS justice is a sort of computer that accurately applies the Constitution and precedents. Perhaps they have a particular philosophy involved, but how does “proper empathy for the working man” come into play? Perhaps public policy considerations on how their actions will affect the world matter… but to the degree that if they haven’t had the right life experiences they are insufficient? I’m just saying, that if there were any branch of the US government where diversity reflecting the country is less important, it would be the courts.
At the same time, the SCOTUS is a very revered group and even after Bush v. Gore is probably the most respected government institution. It’s importance as role-models should not be underestimated.
The President reportedly picked Roberts because of personal chemistry. That’s Bush’s style and he ran on it, so it’s believable and acceptable (even if intellectual commentators deny it because the very concept is so grating to them). Washington DC is about connections, more than anything else.
Bush is a rich white Christian man, who has never given much credit to “identity politics”. By electing him instead of a woman or minority, and then letting him pick people with the primary motive of getting along with them, our country continues a cycle of one image of role models.
I was going to end with a wonderful quote, but I can’t find it. 3 Fox News commentators were discussing the nomination, and mentioned that he’s a white man. In what they intended as a joke, they laughed “Just like us.”
PS: I am at least amused to see that O'Connor, the hero of the hour, even feels "He's good in every way, except he's not a woman."