President Barack Obama seems to be making good on his pledge to nominate a Supreme Court justice. Apparently, he has interviewed three candidates for the job, including Judge Sri Srinivasan from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Nominating an Asian-American such as Srinivasan would be momentous, especially considering the Supreme Court’s checkered history with Asian immigrants.
A number of observers have already noted some of the reasons Srinivasan, a graduate of Lawrence High School in Kansas, would be an excellent nominee. He’s 49, and, if confirmed, would be likely to shape the court’s direction for decades. He was confirmed unanimously to the D.C. Circuit in 2013.
Other political considerations favor Srinivasan among the three interviewed judges. Many Senate Republicans would find it difficult to oppose him.
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Srinivasan worked for the Bush administration and on behalf of corporate clients such as Enron and Exxon. Before that, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Reagan appointee, who would advocate on his behalf.
But we haven’t seen much analysis of another important political factor: the support Srinivasan can expect from Asian-Americans. Here’s why it could be powerful.
1. Asian-Americans have already gotten one Obama nominee confirmed — despite opposition from the National Rifle Association.
In 2014, Asian-Americans mobilized on behalf of an Obama nominee who seemed impossible to confirm: Vivek Murthy for U.S. surgeon general. He once tweeted that “guns are a health care issue,” and the group he founded, Doctors for America, proposed various gun-control measures. The NRA opposed him fiercely.
But Asian-American groups made the critical difference in pushing his nomination through.
2. A Senate fight over a historic nomination such as Srinivasan’s could mobilize Asian-American voters like never before.
Asian-Americans have the lowest rates of voter turnout among U.S. racial groups. At the same time, they are also the fastest growing racial group.
3. Srinivasan’s nomination could prompt Asian-Americans to begin contributing to campaigns in proportion to their wealth.
The Washington Post’s research has found that Asian-Americans have not yet flexed their financial muscle politically in proportion to their national share of high earners.
But their contributions have been growing since 2004. A Senate confirmation fight over a historic candidacy like Srinivasan’s would probably boost campaign contribution activity among Asian-Americans in ways never before seen nationally.
Ramakrishnan is professor of public policy and political science, and Shah is a PhD candidate in political science. Both are at the University of California at Riverside.