Barring some unlikely unforeseen revelation, the Sotomayor nomination will go through as smoothly as these things can these days. Like Roberts and Alito on the other team, she’s been a Supreme Court possibility for a long time, has known it, and has proceeded with the caution that such wannabes must. Nowhere is identity politics more firmly engrained in the American system than on the Supreme Court. Beginning with Louis Brandeis and the “Jewish seat,” through Thurgood Marshall and Sandra Day O’Connor, both parties have long recognized that the principle of equal justice for all implies a visibily inclusive court.
Respecting religion, as with Roberts and Alito, Sotomayor’s Catholicism will figure in only a minor way. The constitutional ban on religious tests for office casts its penumbra over all federal offices other than the presidency (and perhaps the vice presidency). There will be no wafer watch–at least not until after she’s seated. We’ll have the usual abortion two-step at the hearings. The tough GOP partisans will hold their fire for a candidate more likely to make a real difference.