KPFA and identity politics.

On KPFA‘s coverage of the Judge Roberts confirmation hearings, host Larry Bensky identified Senator Chuck Schumer’s second round questioning as “filibustering”. This is an interesting choice of words for a reason Bensky showed no sign of being aware of—Schumer might want to come off as asking tough questions but by filibustering he is actually keeping Judge Roberts from answering the questions Schumer posed or responding to the points Schumer raised, thus helping Roberts.

Throughout the KPFA coverage yesterday and today, you can hear Bensky, Deepa Fernandez, and their co-hosts point out how there’s only one woman on the Judiciary Committee and how there are no African-Americans on the Committee. This is essentially asking for more African-American people and more women on the Judiciary Committee. The problem here is the problem of identity politics—assuming that more women or more blacks would ask different or better questions on issues of importance that have gone unaddressed. There’s an underlying assumption that women and blacks will naturally ask the questions the Left would like to hear asked.

But such a request is easily trumped. What would happen if someone with Condoleezza Rice’s sentiments or political leanings were on the Commmittee? She’s a black woman, therefore she fills KPFA’s implicit request yet it’s reasonable to assume that she would not ask the tough questions the Left long to hear.

With such low criteria for what the Left would rather see or hear, it’s easy to get past the request in a way that maintains the imbalance of power. Better to admit that one’s request is problematic (stuffing the Court with like-minded Justices?) and get around to asking for questions on particular matters of interest and analyzing in terms of the questions posed, not the skin color or sex of the questioner.