Sessions is the most glaring proof of the folly of shunning Clinton
The list of the major votes of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions took against civil rights issues is long.
His votes earned him a 0 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, a 7 percent rating from the NAACP and a 20 percent rating from the ACLU.
The prospect of Sessions as the next Attorney General is an absolute worst nightmare. However, there were ample warning signs. One was Sessions himself. He was one of the first GOP name officials to latch onto to the Trump campaign and never wavered in his support of it. There was little doubt that if Trump bagged the White House, Sessions would be in on the payoff for his loyalty and would land some big-ticket administration appointment. That appointment was almost certain to be the Justice Department head. He had the right Trump-favored credentials. He was a former U.S. Attorney, a long-time member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and most importantly, there’s his record on civil rights.
It fit into exactly the type of person Trump would put into every top legal position he could put someone in, from the Justice Department to the Supreme Court. That someone had to be the type who took the narrowest strict constructionist interpretation of the law, and the dimmest view of what and how civil rights should be litigated and enforced. For the court, Trump’s ideal choice as he oft put it, was another Antonin Scalia. If he couldn’t get Sessions for the High Court — and the likelihood of that was slim since Sessions had already been rejected once for a federal judgeship as too racist — then the next best place he could fit him was the Justice Department.
Now we come to Clinton. The drumbeat refrain from many progressives and some liberal Democrats was that Clinton was as bad as Trump. She was pro-war, pro-Wall Street and a corporate shill. If Bernie Sanders didn’t get the nomination, then they would either vote for a third-party candidate or stay home. No amount of exhorting that Trump would wreak havoc on the Affordable Care Act, labor protections, voting rights, abortion, give unfettered free rein to Wall Street and the Big Banks, try to put at least two or three more Scalias on the Supreme Court, not to mention stock the federal judiciary with Scalia-type clones, and cut and slash an array of other federal supported health, education and job spending programs mattered. The retort was that Trump would be relentlessly challenged every step of the way by Congressional Democrats, civil rights, liberties, environmental and women groups to prevent shoving this horrific apocalyptic vision of a future America through. Maybe, but that overlooked one glaring problem.
Senate Democrats and progressive House Democrats would almost certainly be in the minority in Congress and could not stop Republicans from proposing endless legislation and initiatives in these areas, inflaming their invigorated base of ultra-conservatives and white protestant evangelicals, bullying the mainstream media and using their majorities in the majority of America’s state legislatures and state houses to counter the other side. Protest groups would have leverage only in the forces they could muster in the streets. But a Republican White House and majority Congress would be virtually immune to those protests since they did not rely on them to win or stay in office.
No matter what one thought of Clinton and her supposed deep-standing corporate and Beltway ties, she was not Trump. It would be the height of lunacy to compare, say, Obama’s attorney generals, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, on their absolute worst days to Sessions. It would be beyond delusion to think that Sessions would ever file briefs challenging the gut of the Voting Rights Act or bring a civil rights prosecutions of police officers that gunned down unarmed blacks as Lynch and especially Holder did. The almost certain blind eye by a Sessions to the horrendous abuse of civil rights might not have much resonance to well-to-do, comfortable and smug progressives who are not in direct harm’s way from these abuses. But for poor, and working class blacks and Hispanics these abuses are almost literally a matter of life and death.
Shunning Clinton could not be shrugged off as a mere case of thoughtless, holier-than-thou idealism that had no consequences. It did then and even more so now. Sessions is the horrid proof of that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.