Should Black leaders rally around the nomination of Loretta Lynch?
It sounds like an obvious answer. And for many, I guess it is. According to a press release issued on Tuesday by the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition that represents more than 200 civil rights organizations, a number of Black leaders are pressing Senate members to stop delaying the vote in the nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general.
As no surprise to most, the Republicans are stalling. And in an interview with CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said point blank that he, and the other obstructionists, were intentionally delaying the vote on the nomination. If passed, McConnell would become the first African-American woman to serve in the position, which is soon to be vacated by the first Black attorney general, Eric Holder.
At issue, McConnell tells CNN, is an anti-human trafficking bill, which he feels needs immediate attention. Of course, we all know good and well that McConnell, and many of those other folks on the Hill, care nothing about human trafficking. And as pointed out by NPR, within the massive bill, which seeks to create a “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund” for victims of trafficking crimes, is a pro-life provision that would bar funds collected under the measure from being used to pay for abortions. Democrats are holding that bill up because of such a provision, and until they pass it, there will be no vote in the confirmation of Lynch.
Earlier this week, some of the coalition members held a conference call about Lynch’s nomination delay. Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Council, called it “a disgraceful turn of events at a time when the country desperately needs a continued steady hand and a seamless transition at the Justice Department.” He also noted that Lynch passed Senate confirmation twice before for United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, so there really shouldn’t be an issue now.
Echoing those sentiments, but with much stronger words, is Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who called McConnell “petty and mean spirited” in his attempt to “deny the president his choice for Attorney General just because he wants to do it.” Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that the Caucus is disturbed by the delay, now in its fourth month, and also said that “opposition to her nomination is nothing more than a political ploy to once again use any means necessary to show their disdain for President Obama.”
Also not happy is Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She cautioned that the dismay over the delay is not about her being a woman, or even an African American, but rather over concerns about vital legal questions surrounding the handling of women’s rights, voting rights and policing in this country.
Yet in a previous column where I reviewed her testimony given during one of those nomination hearings, I noted that when it came certain pivotal human rights issues, Lynch’s responses in some cases weren’t really that progressive. In particular, her testimony around questions related to better community and police relations didn’t sound like she would be the kind of attorney general who would sympathize with protestors against law enforcement misconduct and abuse. In particular she said:
“In my experience…these tensions are best dealt with by having discussions with all parties so that everyone feels that their voice has been heard,” Lynch said. “With respect to our brave law enforcement agents, we ask so much of them. We ask them to keep us safe. We ask them to protect us literally from ourselves. And we ask them to do it often without the resources they need to be safe and secure themselves. Yet they still stand up every day and risk their lives for us. Many of our community residents, for a host of factors, feel disconnected from government today. And when they interact with law enforcement, transfer that feeling to them as well. Even if someone is there to help.”
Yeah, I’m willing to bet that community residents’ dismay with law enforcement isn’t just misplaced angst against the government. Also questionable are her stances on the death penalty, which she said is “an effective penalty,” and the federal response to the changing state laws on marijuana. She said that if she were attorney general, she would continue to enforce federal statutes of marijuana laws, including money laundering.
The Leadership Conference has said that this is an important moment in history, yet we are about to confirm a candidate who might just punt when we need some passes. But while I do feel that way, I agree that there is nothing really holding up her confirmation other than the right playing politics.
But is Lynch enough? Should Black leaders concerned about the state and condition of the community put so much effort into championing a candidate who may be discriminated against, but is more of the status quo? What say you?