Attorney General Loretta Lynch at long last won the first round of battle with the GOP with her confirmation. But it's only the first round. The 43 GOP senators who vote against her confirmation made clear by their vote against her that she will be on the same political hot seat as former Attorney General Eric Holder. There are three reasons for their continuing war on her. The first is blatant partisan politics; to be more specific the GOP's relentless political undermining of President Obama. Lynch was a pawn in the GOP's prolonged campaign to obstruct, hector, harangue and where possible kill any and every Obama initiative, program, key judicial or administrative post-nomination. The political one-upmanship against the administration will only intensify as the launch of the 2016 presidential campaign gets closer.
The second reason Lynch will continue to be a target is the crisis issue of police abuse and the Justice Department's role in dealing with the issue. Holder's aggressive campaign challenging police and city officials in Ferguson and other cities to rein in abusive practices and implement substantive reforms in training, policies and procedures in dealing with excessive force drew loud shouts from conservatives that Holder and the Justice Department had badly overstepped its bounds. GOP leaders want no repeat of that with Lynch. The issue loomed big in the five months her confirmation was held up. The GOP wanted clear assurances that she would not make police abuse a centerpiece of Justice Department concern on her watch. Lynch tread very carefully on this issue.
The even greater concern is voting rights. The GOP hammered Holder hard for aggressively filing lawsuits, issuing directives, and speaking out on the need to combat the innumerable subtle and overt GOP vote suppression ploys. This looms even bigger as an issue with the 2016 elections. GOP leaders are keenly aware that these ploys fell flat on their face in the 2012 presidential election. Black and Hispanic voters packed the voting booths in massive numbers. Their votes were the single biggest reason that Obama won re-election. In fact, the 2012 presidential election result was the final tipping point for the GOP. Though, it maintained its tight grip on the five Deep South states, and other Old Confederacy states, almost exclusively with the majority votes of white conservatives, the GOP saw the handwriting on the wall for the future. The increased number of blacks and Hispanics in the states would pose a mortal threat to its continued dominance in those states. But that could only happen if there are no barriers in place to the registration of black and Hispanic voters.
The GOP's hoped for trump card to stave that off as long as possible was the Supreme Court. The conservatives on the court read the election tea leafs and quickly announced that they would take up a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts bluntly said at the time that things had changed in the South and that blacks supposedly could vote everywhere in the South without any barriers or prohibitions. Clarence Thomas, to no surprise, went even further and flatly called Section 5 of the Act unconstitutional and left no doubt if and when he had the chance he'd knock the Act out completely.
The hook was the federal lawsuit by Shelby County, Alabama that claimed the Act was outdated, discriminatory, and a blatant federal intrusion into state's rights. The lawsuit explicitly wanted the centerpiece of the Act, Section 5 dumped. This is the provision that mandates that states get "preclearance" from the Justice Department before making any changes in voting procedures. State attorneys general in several states endorsed the Alabama County's challenge. The rest is now ugly history. The Supreme Court struck down this provision. President Obama and Holder quickly denounced the court's decision and urged Congress to take action to insure that voting rights were protected. The chance of that happening in a GOP-controlled House was nil.
But this was only part of the story of the roadblocks the GOP has thrown up. A study by the Alliance for Justice, a Washington D.C.-based public interest group, has documented the legions of complaints and challenges filed by the Justice Department and voting rights groups to discriminatory changes that county registrars have made to eliminate or narrow down the number of voters in predominantly minority districts. There's no indication to date that in many districts that has changed.
That in effect tosses the ball back into the court of the Justice Department to be a vigilant watchdog on guard against any voting abuses, irregularities, and outright exclusion of minority voters and would-be voters from the polls. That brings it back to Lynch. GOP leaders are determined that she not repeat what Holder did and go after these abuses. GOP senators sent a message with their overwhelming vote against her confirmation that they will continue to war on her to insure that that doesn't happen.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
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