Is Judge Sonia Sotomayor a socialist?

Steve Waldman at Beliefnet was one of the first to point out that the White House has circulated Judge Sotomayor's 1976 Princeton yearbook entry, in which she quotes Norman Thomas. Citing Wikipedia, Waldman calls Thomas, "The leading American Socialist politician of the 20th century."

Actually, Wikipedia now describes Thomas as, "a leading American socialist, pacifist, and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America."

There are a few problems with the potential tempest in a teapot that such a citation may stir up during the Judge's confirmation hearings.

First off, catching this socialist quotation is just a "gotcha" moment, not a serious review of any of the Judge's political attitudes.

But more to the point, we have a theory about how the Judge got this quotation.

The end of the Wikipedia entry on Thomas notes that a dedicatory plaque in the Norman Thomas '05 Library at Princeton University's Forbes college reads:
Norman M. Thomas, class of 1905.
"I am not the champion of lost causes,
but the champion of causes not yet won."
The Judge's use of this quotation cuts two ways with us. First it suggests to us that she scrambled for a last minute quote for her yearbook entry and picked one from the wall of a library.

But then, on the positive side, this confirms to us that Sotomayor was one of those students at Princeton who actually entered a library. As this professor can attest, many students he's taught did not know where any of their campus libraries were located.

But then again, this small library is in the Forbes residential college; it is not Princeton's main library. The Norman Thomas 1905 Library at Forbes College, "Contains a general collection, reference books and periodicals, as well as an extensive science fiction collection."

Admittedly, there are plenty of problems with our library-plaque-quotation theory. We don't know if there was a library at that residential college in 1976. And we don't know if there was a plaque up during that time. Prior to 1984 (from 1970 to 1983) the college was called the Princeton Inn College, and its residents were called "Innmates." We further don't know if Sotomayor was a resident of that college. It's a weak theory.

So, having explored all that, let the confirmation hearing socialist quotation gotchas begin.


Richard said...

In 1907 David Ben-Gurion joined the Zionist Socialist movement. Golda Meir was the head of the Socialist Mapai party. The most celebrated Israeli general Moshe Dayan was born to a Socialist family. The Kabutz communities were based on Socialism. Come to think about it, without Socialism Israel would have never come into being.

There is no shame in the label, rather it is a badge of honor.

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