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Estrada victimized by both parties

I write to ask you to withdraw my pending nomination.” These were the words that ended Miguel Estrada’s two-year struggle for nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals, an intense drama driven by race, power, justice and, of course, politics.

Estrada was no ordinary nominee. He was the first Hispanic to ever be nominated for a federal appeals court, but he was also a fairly hard-line conservative. Unfortunately, Estrada’s nomination and his subsequent withdrawal demonstrate the worst kind of political irresponsibility in America today.

When President George W. Bush first nominated Estrada, the move was heralded as a social breakthrough, the first Hispanic to ever be nominated for a federal appeals court position. The jubilation did not last long, however, before the partisan vultures on both sides began circling Estrada as a pawn in their political objectives.

As soon it appeared that Republicans might gain a slight edge in the court system, the Democrats immediately began a rather uncouth two-year filibuster. They accused Bush of stacking the courts, and in the end they prevented the Senate from voting on Estrada’s confirmation. By acting in a childish manner and objecting to every detail, the Democrats managed to get their way. Is this what politics have come to in America?

The Republicans are certainly not without fault in the matter, however. It was evident from the start that Republicans were intent on exploiting racial issues to push a conservative judge into the court system. Is this really how we want to resolve our country’s racial and social difficulties, by exploiting minorities for political gains?

In truth, both Republicans and Democrats should be terribly ashamed of what they have done with the Estrada issue. In Estrada, we had an ideal representation of America’s core values – the ability to rise from the very bottom to the top, from an immigrant to a judge in the federal court system. It’s not as if Estrada wasn’t qualified for the job, either; as a successful lawyer who graduated from both Columbia and Harvard Law School, he was more than capable of accurately interpreting the law.

Estrada’s example teaches us a valuable lesson about the racial equality advocated by many politicians in Washington today. The left wing has been the primary advocate of racially based social programs, including affirmative action, but suddenly these ideologies have no meaning if you are a member of the opposite political party. The right wing, on the other hand, suddenly began embracing many of these same ideologies, as soon as it benefited them politically. The real problem, with not only the Estrada issue, but with today’s entire political establishment, is this intense obsession with race in every aspect of public life.

If we stopped for a moment and disregarded race altogether, then neither party could manipulate it to their advantage. Neither party could pack the court by playing on social or racial issues. Any nominee, any issue, any bill, anything would have to be weighed on its own merits, and its own merits alone. This is the real lesson we should take from Estrada.

In the end, the real victim in all these proceedings is Estrada himself. A man of humble immigrant origins, Estrada was effectively denied a court position despite being well-educated and qualified. He is a victim of the worst kind of politicking from every side of the political spectrum.

Brinton Ahlin is a University student.

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