[NOTE: Cross-Posted on College Insurrection]
Justice Sonia Sotomayor has a new book about to be published, and Andrew Cohen has an embarrassingly gushing celebration of it, and her, in The Atlantic, regarding it as a profound “prebuttal to what Chief Justice John Roberts and company are poised to do” in the Fisher affirmative action case.
Cohen, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, legal analyst for 60 Minutes, and chief analyst and legal editor for CBS Radio News, has written as vapid and shallow a justification of affirmative action as you’re likely to find anywhere, and that’s saying a lot since there is so much competition. Here’s his best shot:
The presence on the Court of the newest justice herself, and her personal story of relentless achievement, are a direct answer, rich and detailed, to some of the harsher questions the conservatives posed in October when they held oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas. What is the value of affirmative action in academia? Well, in the best-case scenario, it can produce a Sonia Sotomayor.
This is no more than a third-person variety of what I have called — such as here, here, here, here, and here— the “C’est Moi!” justification for affirmative action offered by such luminaries as Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Theordore Shaw: that it gave the world … me! The clear implication is that had she not benefitted from affirmative action preferences that allowed her to attend Princeton and Yale Law School (where, because of her success at Princeton, she might not have received or needed preferential treatment), she would have been a failure and the world would have been deprived of her services, or the services of someone equally commendable.
Cohen’s effort to do what Sotomayor herself attempts — to use her life story as a justification for affirmative action — never rises above treacly drool. Here’s the closest thing in his review to an actual argument:
Here’s another brief passage from the book that tracks the story of affirmative action in America — and, for that matter, of the larger political divide in America. “I was fifteen years old,” Sotomayor writes, “when I understood how it is that things break down: people can’t imagine someone else’s point of view.” Isn’t “someone else’s point of view” the essence of affirmative action in education?
No, it isn’t.