THE BLOG
05/30/2013 03:47 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2013

The Bully Pulpit

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Most bullies can't take a punch. Worst, they hate being exposed as bullies. So, that brings us to the pulpit. The United States Constitution starts with the preamble that speaks about "we the people;" "a more perfect union;" and to "establish justice;" all of the ingredients to vanquish bullies. Right now, America is being challenged by bullies. Not those who are outside of the nation trying to do physical harm to us as a people or engage in acts of terrorism. We as a nation at least seem to all stand together on that score. No, these are political bullies, if you will, who seem intent on engaging in a counterrevolution against the will of the people.

In November of 2012, the nation, by a fairly sizable majority, reelected their president to serve another four years. Sometimes that is referred to as the "will of the people." So what happens then when the people's will is being stymied by the gamesmanship of a gang of 45? Well, one thing that happens is that the people's choice for appointing government officials, ambassadors and judges gets stalled because the president's nominees for various offices and judgeships get held up by those governmental partners who were given the power of "advice and consent."

Much has been written recently about the manner in which President Obama's nominees for offices, such as Tom Perez, the president's pick to head the Department of Labor, or Richard Cordray, the president's pick to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Board; or the president's picks to head the Environmental Protection Agency; the Department of Commerce; the Federal Communications Commissions, or any number of appointees to the National Labor Relations Board have been blocked. This is critical.

It gets worst when you consider the vast number of judicial nominees who are being held up while many of the courts that these judicial nominees would be appointed to go into crisis mode with workloads that can't be push forward. The Senate just last week confirmed Sri Srinivasan, a former attorney in the office of the U.S. Solicitor General, to the District of Columbia's (D.C.) Circuit Court of Appeals. That appointment was a significant time in the making and the D.C. Circuit still has three vacancies. So how do those who seek to thwart the will of the people respond to those vacancies? They have Iowa Senator Charles Grassley accuse the administration of "court packing" and float a legislative idea which would eliminate the people's choice from nominating any further judges to that court; so much for the proper use of "advice and consent."

This challenge to the "will of people" gets more fascinating when you broaden out to review some of the recent attacks to voting rights in the form of voter suppression and voter ID laws. The current case before the Supreme Court, Shelby County v. Holder, which will decide the constitutional fate of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, will be decided by the end of June at the latest.

When was the last time, the "will of the people" has been so thoroughly challenged by the manipulations of the insiders in the Beltway around the nation's capital? Well, some might say "Gore v. Bush." That's when the United States Supreme Court intervened on the 2000 presidential elections that had Al Gore winning the popular vote, and the Court having to determine the winner of Florida's vote and thereby the presidency for George W. Bush. Others might say it was the Compromise of 1877, otherwise known as the Hayes/Tilden Compromise of 1877.

Leading up to that compromise was the period in American history known as the Radical Reconstruction. This was the post-Civil War period where African-Americans began to first enjoy the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not to mention the right of citizenship and the right to vote. During this period, roughly between 1867-1877, black Americans voted in large numbers and elected 16 persons to the United States Congress, including two senators, Hiram Rhodes Revels and Blanche Bruce, both from Mississippi and 14 congresspersons, including Joseph Rainey and Benjamin Turner, who excelled as legislators. This was on top of hundreds of African-Americans and former slaves who were elected to state and local political offices. America was certainly on the road to a "more perfect union." But the bullies struck with the presidential election of 1876.

Rutherford B. Hayes, Ohio's governor, was the Republican Party's candidate for president and Samuel J. Tilden, New York's governor, was the Democratic Party's candidate for president. There became a dispute over 20 electoral votes from primarily three southern states -- Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina -- and one additional electoral vote from Oregon. Since the Republicans still controlled the state apparatus of those states, an agreement was struck between the parties. The Southern Democrats, whose prime interest was in retaking government and removing the rights of African-Americans, conceded the election to Hayes, if Hayes and the Republicans would turn their backs on the post-Civil-War progress. The Compromise of 1877 was struck and the era of Jim Crow was ushered in. The "will of the people" had been defeated. Blacks would not enjoy the full right to vote again until after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The People, however, have their own bully pulpits, and they never allow an injustice to last forever. Those that today attempt to thwart the "will of people" through the obstruction of the people's choice and the recommendations that the president makes to run this government through the 'unjust' manipulation of legislative rules, should beware. "We the people," must mount our pulpits in every way and in every form to bring order back from chaos and continue our work to form a more perfect union and to establish justice. If we don't stand up, the bullies won't sit down. We owe nothing less to the sacrifice that so many have made to ensure our rights to vote and to fully participate in this nation's democratic process. Moreover, the people's will was expressed at the ballot box and the people should back up the choices they made. That's taking responsibility for one's actions and not leaving the fight to one person. Let's find out if these bullies can take a righteous punch!

Michael A. Hardy, Esq. is General Counsel and Executive Vice-President to National Action Network (NAN). He has been involved in many of this nation's highest profiled cases involving violations of civil or human rights. He continues to supervise National Action Network's crisis unit and hosts a monthly free legal clinic at NAN New York City's House of Justice. He writes a weekly blog entitled "Equal Justice" found at www.nationalactionnetwork.net

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