Irin Carmon on the despicable campaign to block Kristen Clarke, an excellent and principled civil rights lawyer, from a major appointment at DOJ.
“It’s impossible not to notice that women of color seem to be drawing fire for the wrong reasons,” says Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor and former Civil Rights division official. National Women’s Law Center president Fatima Goss Graves told me, “These types of campaigns against women of color, and the language that is being used, to portray these nominees as ‘radical’ are not being levied against men.”
The Senate has never confirmed a woman of any race to run the Civil Rights division. That role wields the authority to oversee police departments that abuse their power, an authority former Attorney General Jeff Sessions actively worked to thwart, and to see to it that laws and court decisions that protect people from discrimination are properly enforced. This will also be the first redistricting cycle since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. “The civil rights division protects Americans from government,” Levitt notes. “It is the only part of the federal government tasked with suing other branches of governments.”
Nominees to run the branch tend to be civil rights lawyers who support the implementation of laws like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which were once bipartisan but are unpopular with today’s Republicans. By now, that’s to be expected. What has been more disappointing for decades now is the skittishness of Senate Democrats to vote for, and White House Democrats to stand by, these nominees.