Goodwin Liu was on track to be the first Asian American judge on the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. Photo credit: UC Berkeley School of Law.
Goodwin Liu's bid to become a judge on the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ended in a filibuster on Thursday. So what's next? It's expected that Liu -- who was nominated by President Obama over a year ago -- won't get an up-or-down vote, and that he will probably withdraw his nomination so that Obama can nominate someone else to fill the vacancy.
The 40-year-old Liu -- who is a UC Berkeley law professor, Yale Law School grad, Rhodes Scholar and former Supreme Court clerk -- seemed eminently qualified for the job, but he fell victim to partisan politics. Republicans likely feared he was on track for the Supreme Court, and his liberal stance on flashpoint issues like same-sex marriage and affirmative action drew considerable ire from conservatives.
Liu was the unfortunate victim of party politics, but the failure to get him on the US Circuit Court of Appeals is a dispiriting sign of something else: as America gets more and more diverse, its representatives in government -- from their policies to their ethnic background -- remain stridently out of touch.
Liu received a lot of support for his nomination. There was great interest from the Asian American community, because he would have been the first Asian American judge on the ninth circuit, which covers nine Western states (including California), where 40 percent of Asians in American live.
Party politics shows its worst side during debates like these. Senator Lindsey Graham called Liu an "ideologue," and Senator Chuck Grassley accused him of being a Communist. For a more unbiased, contextual view of Liu's political opinions, you can read his own writing: Keeping Faith With The Constitution, a book he co-authored with Pam Karlan and Chris Schroeder, explains the Constitution and how to interpret it, and it is available online for free, in its entirety.
The blogosphere has plenty to say in the wake of Liu's filibustered nomination. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick calls out Republican party tactics as "the return of the race to the bottom," and dissects accusations directed at Liu as "a hall of mirrors of hypocrisy." Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress says it does not bode well for those who are vocal in their opinions about interpreting the Constitution:
The question was no longer whether Liu belongs on the bench—he unambiguously does—but whether his opponents could find a way to distort his many pages of legal scholarship in order to paint him as some kind of radical. And because Liu is a very prolific scholar, he gave his opponents a whole lot of material to distort.
The Ninth Circuit will weigh in on issues concerning immigration and civil rights, and those kinds of issues would only benefit from a qualified representative on the bench who also reflects the community's own diverse background. Good magazine's infographic on what the US House and Senate would look like if they were demographically representative of its citizens clarifies the bigger picture, and it isn't encouraging. The only diverse thing about it is the number and make-up of its underrepresented groups, whether it's based on gender, race or religious affiliation. The position for which Liu was nominated has a direct impact on the community it represents.
This week's filibuster sent a message that substantial experience and careful examination of our Constitution does not make you qualified by government standards. Even worse, it sends the message that, despite having our first person of color in the White House, the representation of our elected officials from a perspective of ethnic, gender and other backgrounds looks pallid at best.