I knew this was coming when I first heard of Souter's retirement from the bench: The assumption that a woman couldn't possibly be the best candidate, combined with the assumption that a white man would obviously be nominated only on the basis of pure and unadulterated merit. More precisely:
For example, when CNN host Lou Dobbs asked why all of the potential nominees that CNN's Jeffrey Toobin listed were women, Toobin said that "[m]ore than half the law students in the United States are now women. Almost half the lawyers in the United States are women. There's only one out of nine justices on the Supreme Court who are women. I think President Obama, who believes in diversity, thinks it's time to even out the balance a little bit more." Nonetheless, Dobbs responded by asking: "Are you talking about the death of meritocracy on the court? ... Wouldn't it be strange that this court ruled against affirmative action, racial quotas, and ruled in favor of a truly sex -- gender- and race-blind society that then Justice Souter be replaced on the basis of group and identity politics? ... Wouldn't that be captivatingly ironic?" Toobin then explained that "Obama would say diversity is not opposite of meritocracy. Those are very qualified candidates."
Similarly, Buchanan said that Obama should pick a "liberal, Democrat John Roberts who has real stature, impresses people, maybe even gets Republican votes. But I think what he will do is I think he's gonna go for a minority, a woman and/or a Hispanic because he sees that as their turn."
Some conservatives also reject Dobbs and Buchanan's argument. On the May 4 edition of MSNBC Live, for instance, host Andrea Mitchell asked Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) whether, "all things being equal," Obama should nominate a woman. Gregg replied: "I think that in the legal system which we have today, we have a huge amount of talent out there. And you can -- if you feel that the balance on the court should be addressed relative to women being on the court, which I happen to think is a good idea, you can certainly find a lot of extraordinarily talented people who are -- happen to be women also. And that would probably be good."
Just imagine a reversal: A country where men are slightly more than half of all citizens and where the Supreme Court consists of eight women and one man. Would you think that is fair?
This isn't really about diversity, and I wish it wasn't portrayed that way. Women are the majority of Americans, and yet there's only one woman on the bench.