Next week, Senate committees are scheduled to begin hearings on nominees who, based on their past records, seem poised to undo decades of advances in civil and human rights which we have all worked so hard to achieve. This is not hyperbole. Consider: the man nominated for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, supported restrictive photo identification laws and lauded the Supreme Court’s gutting of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. He supports segregation of children with disabilities, and opposed efforts in Alabama to provide community services to adults with disabilities who were needlessly institutionalized. As attorney general of Alabama, he fervently fought a court decision that required the state to fix its unconstitutionally inadequate and inequitable public school system. The nation’s chief law enforcement officer must zealously guard the civil and human rights of all people. We are being offered the opposite: a person who opposes them.
This is only the first example.
Why bother? Isn’t this a done deal? Even the once-moderate Senator Susan Collins is listed as one of the two senators to introduce Sessions as the nominee.
I’ve wrestled with this. I’m busy. Why do something if it isn’t going to change the vote? Here’s why:
Silence is acquiescence (or at least it will be perceived that way). I was stung by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Solomon Jones, who wrote today that “Sessions brings racial discrimination to the Justice Department he’s poised to run. That’s why white America is content to look the other way.” I (who am white) am not looking away. But I haven’t said anything yet, either. That silence makes it too easy for our senators to conclude that we just don’t care all that much. But I do care, and I know you do too. So we are taking action on Trump cabinet nominations. Will you, too?
We have to keep stating our vision for the nation. As Lincoln famously noted, it certainly wasn’t factual that all men were created equal when Jefferson wrote those words. They were written, Lincoln said, to set a goal for all to aspire to and work to, so that they would be accomplished in the future. We need to set down those markers and set those goals, to keep front and center that we are not prepared to go backward on our vision of what a country that believes in equal treatment under the rule of law would look like.
And maybe. There will be an outpouring of rage at the unfitness of one or more nominee and that outpouring will change some minds about what they can go along with. Just such an outcry saved the Office of Congressional Ethics earlier this week.
Our promise to you: starting Monday, as the Senate hearings get underway, we will be sending you specific calls to action to respond to particular nominations. We will give you information about who to call, copies of letters and reports that have already been written about the nominee and some points you may want to make in your own communication.
Let’s all take up the challenge that Bernie Sanders issued in his November appearance at the Free Library of Philadelphia:
“But throughout history, serious people have fought back. That’s where we are now, and that is exactly what we have to do. It is not acceptable—it really is not—for people to throw their hands up and say, “Oh, I’m depressed. Oh, I’m giving up.” It’s not about you. It’s about the future of this planet. It’s about your kids and your grandchildren. It is about American democracy. It is about some very fundamental issues. And nobody in this room or in this country has a right to say “I give up.”…You’ve got to jump in and start fighting. Let’s go!”