Conservative media figures have attacked Elena Kagan for having grown up in New York City, arguing that her New York origins indicate she "has no clue how real Americans live."
Right-wing media target Kagan for her city of origin
Parker devotes column to examining how her New York "geography may well be Kagan's wound." In her May 12 syndicated column, Kathleen Parker examined Kagan's "geography" as someone who "grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan" in light of what she called President Obama's "desire to nominate justices who are in touch with 'ordinary Americans.'" Parker writes that while "New York City dwellers would argue that they struggle with ordinary concerns," "New York, like other urban areas, tends to be more liberal than the vast rest of the country. More than half the country also happens to be Protestant, yet with Kagan, the court will feature three Jews, six Catholics and nary a Protestant."
Parker concludes that Kagan, "a New York City girl who attended prep school, Ivy League colleges and law school ... can't be characterized as anything close to mainstream America":
What is Kagan's geography? What is her anchorage, her port of call?
Coincidentally, she shares the same home town as the other two women on the court. Assuming Kagan is confirmed, all three women will hail from New York. Kagan grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Sonia Sotomayor is from the Bronx and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is from Brooklyn.
If diversity on the court is our goal, we may be missing a region or two.
These facts ultimately may be more anecdotally interesting than significant in terms of how a justice might perform. Then again, spending one's formative years walking past the infamously crime-riddled Murder Hotel en route to school, as Kagan did -- and, say, walking past the First Baptist Church to ballet class -- are not the same cultural marinade.
Certainly New York City dwellers would argue that they struggle with ordinary concerns, just in a more dense environment. But New York, like other urban areas, tends to be more liberal than the vast rest of the country. More than half the country also happens to be Protestant, yet with Kagan, the court will feature three Jews, six Catholics and nary a Protestant. Fewer than one-fourth of Americans are Catholic, and 1.7 percent are Jewish.
But the president adheres to the ordinary-people principle, and so the question must be asked: Does Kagan meet the standard? She may have other qualifications, including her willingness at Harvard to invite conservative scholars to her faculty. But a New York City girl who attended a prep school, Ivy League colleges and law school -- who once barred military recruiters from Harvard's recruitment office and was an adviser to Goldman Sachs -- can't be characterized as anything close to mainstream America.
Either Obama may want to tweak his operating narrative -- or geography may well be Kagan's wound.
NRO's Whelan: The fact that Kagan "is such a product of New York City" that she didn't drive at 16, "nicely captures [her] remoteness from the lives of most Americans." In a May 10 post to National Review Online, Ed Whelan quoted from an article that reported Kagan "is such a product of New York City that she did not learn to drive until her late 20s," and commented that it "nicely captures Elena Kagan's remoteness from the lives of most Americans." As Media Matters' Matt Gertz noted, New York City has 5.6 million residents over age 25, but only 3.3 million residents have drivers' licenses.
Savage: Kagan was "born in New York City," which "in that period of time" means "she was a given leftist." On the May 10 broadcast of his radio show, Michael Savage asserted that "Kagan is a red diaper doper baby, she's part of the New York City communist front -- she has been in her entire life in my opinion. Don't be a fool and think that they have to wear red berets and run in the street with red flags. She was born in New York City, unto itself, in that period of time, going to Hunter College, she was a given leftist."
Limbaugh: Kagan has only lived in NY, DC, Chicago, and Boston, has "no clue how real Americans live." During the May 10 broadcast of his radio show, Limbaugh attacked Kagan as a "liberal elitist theoretician" who has "no clue how real Americans live," citing her prior residency in cities including New York:
LIMBAUGH: This woman Kagan, she supposedly is there to make sure the court deals with the despised and the downtrodden, with the despised and the poor, and so forth. She doesn't know anything about it. She's lived at Harvard; she's lived at Hyde Park in Chicago, inside the Beltway, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As is the case with all liberal elitist theoreticians, they have no clue how real Americans live, they think they know how Americans ought to live. And that is what they want to use the judiciary for. They're totally animated by their prejudices and their biases.