The Administration

Why the delay in confirming Lynch?

Getty Images

Is Republican political intransigence to blame for the Senate’s failure to confirm or reject Loretta Lynch as attorney general nearly five months after President Obama nominated her to succeed Eric Holder? Or is racial politics — the type that have forced many on the right to despise both Obama and Holder for their stances on high-profile race-based killings by vigilantes and law enforcement over the past few years — the primary culprit?

The short answer is probably a mixture of the two. The long answer is that with partisan politics having become more polarized than ever over the past decade amid the growing potency of conservative talk radio and social media, most Senate Republicans believe that a vote against Lynch, regardless of her qualifications, is the right thing to do for the good of the party. Not surprisingly, to these leaders, the good of the party is anything that casts a pall over the Obama administration.

{mosads}To let Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and his supporters tell it, Lynch’s confirmation is stalled either because of her support for Obama’s use of executive orders to end run around Republicans on policy issues, or due to procedural concerns over a pending immigration bill.

However, to many observers, such are merely pretexts for the real culprit: Republican aversion to Obama and Holder’s rhetorical and political stances on the issue of race in the enforcement of laws.

Obama’s 2009 inauguration was heralded by some as the dawn of the post-racial era, but such seemingly quixotic idealism has long since given way to the reality that in America, race still matters. While the more banal conservatives love to blame the president for such racial dissonance, the fact remains that the Sword of Damocles that is race relations should never have been set above Obama’s head — as such was surely bound to figuratively decapitate him in the eyes of those whose cynicism on the topic often betrays their own racial biases. Such is why, that when Obama argued that police in Cambridge, Mass. “behaved stupidly” for arresting famed black Harvard Professor Henry Gates after a neighbor reported him for burglarizing his own home, conservatives were apoplectic for what they deemed Obama’s disrespect of law enforcement.

The same held true when the president suggested, much to the chagrin of conservatives, that if he had a son, that he “would look like Trayvon” in the days following Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of vigilante George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla.

Likewise, last summer, when the nation was rocked by the deaths of Eric Garner—choked to death by police officers in Staten Island—and Michael Brown, shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, the ensuing outpouring of protests and the launching of investigations by the Holder Justice Department was harshly criticized by conservatives who were mostly in lock-step support with law enforcement.

From the beginning of his tenure, Holder, maybe even more than Obama, has drawn the ire of conservatives who were upset by his early averment that ours is “a nation of cowards” with respect to the issue of race. During the time since, whether the issue was the “Fast and Furious” gun running to Mexican drug cartels or the aforementioned incidents of police and/or vigilantes behaving deadly or badly, Holder’s willingness to call a spade a spade with respect to conservatives has only increased the wails of those who believe him to be some form of black supremacist demagogue. Indeed, when Lynch’s nomination was first announced, one of the earliest talking points from the right was that Lynch during her matriculation at Harvard was a charter member of the predominantly black Delta Sigma Theta sorority along with Holder’s wife, Sharon. The race baiters on the right were immediately seeking to depict Delta — and by extension Lynch — as some type of radical political organization as opposed to respecting the role that the sorority has played in advocating for civil and women’s rights for over a century.

But with there seemingly being another black adult or child beaten or killed by law enforcement each week, let us be clear that the current failure to confirm Lynch stems from an insidious attempt to thumb their political noses at the very position that is charged to serve as the arbiter of justice with respect to the U.S. Constitution. Recently, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D) compared Lynch’s current limbo to Rosa Parks, the iconic civil rights figure who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala. in 1955. Days later, a group of prominent black women, led by theologian Barbara Williams-Skinner, led a march on McConnell’s office while exclaiming, “We will not be moved, we will not go back, we will not stop.”

Nevertheless, to date, McConnell and Senate Republicans do not seem willing to stop, either. Not that Republicans love having Eric Holder around, but by frustrating his desire to return to private life by holding up Lynch, this game of political grandstanding — the longest confirmation wait since President Reagan nominated Ed Meese for the same position in 1984 — is definitely childish and arguably racist.

Hobbs is a trial lawyer and freelance journalist who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in commentary by the Tallahassee Democrat in 2010. Hobbs is a past winner of the Florida Bar Media Award and former chief legal counsel for the Florida NAACP. Follow him on Twitter @RealChuckHobbs.

Tags Attorney general Department of Justice Dick Durbin DOJ Eric Holder George Zimmerman Loretta Lynch Mitch McConnell Trayvon Martin

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video