Saturday, April 9, 2016

Launching a Radical Transformation of the Country

Here is an interesting take on what it would mean to start a political revolution in this country:
If a president wanted to launch a radical transformation of the country, he would start it in the Civil Rights Division.
For some background, the Civil Rights Division is part of the Department of Justice that was formed by the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to enforce federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, and national origin. You might remember that it was when President Bill Clinton nominated Lani Guinier to head this division that the Republicans threw a bit of a hissy fit over her prior writings about voting rights. That eventually led to the nomination and confirmation of Deval Patrick - who went on to be the Governor of Massachusetts.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, this is how Joseph Rich, former chief of the voting rights section, described what happened.
Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.
It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.
That is why, since the early days of the Obama administration, when many on the left were focused only on whether or not DOJ was prosecuting Wall Street or members of the Bush/Cheney administration, I kept a pretty close watch on what was happening in the Civil Rights Division. It was initially headed by Tom Perez. When he moved on to become Secretary of Labor, President Obama nominated Debo Adegbile, but Republicans refused to consider him. Since then, the acting director has been Vanita Gupta.

While too many liberals have ignored what has been happening in this division, there is one group that has been zeroing in on it...the radical right folks at PJ Media - which is where the above quote came from. I noticed this back in 2011 when they ran an article documenting the progressive bonafides of the people being hired in the Civil Rights Division. Of course their hair was on fire about it all. But what they reported demonstrated that this administration was hiring some of the best and brightest progressive minds to carry on this important work.

In the more recent article, they are specifically reporting on people who have been hired to work in the voting rights section since 2011. If you take a look, you'll find people who have worked for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Common Cause, the Century Foundation, the New Organizing Institute, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the Advancement Project. In other words, the voting rights section of the Civil Rights Division at DOJ is currently staffed by people with experience defending and championing the cause of civil rights. That's one of the ways that you "launch a radical transformation of the country."

P.S. This story is also a great example of why elections matter!

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