Democratic lawmakers say party politics, in an election year, is the reason that the Republican controlled Congress found U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. On June 28, Attorney General Holder became the first Attorney General and the first sitting cabinet member, in U.S. history, to be found in contempt. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D. CA) says the contempt vote makes a witch hunt look like a walk in the park. If party politics is the primary reason for the Holder contempt vote, then the question remains, whether race is a close second. Democrats and President Obama have not wanted to inject race in the Holder debate.
In a New York Times article last year, Attorney General Holder said race was one reason for the Republican fueled fire over Fast and Furious. Mr. Holder said he believed that a few conservatives— the “more extreme segment” — is motivated by politics and race. Last year Holder said:
“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
With Republican anger directed towards President Obama and Attorney General Holder, it’s often difficult for some to see where party politics ends and racial lines begin. The two are like a garment with a thread running through it. It’s difficult to separate the fabric from the thread. For many blacks, race is a thread that runs through everything from routine traffic stops, where African Americans are disproportionately racially profiled in many states to racial disparity in treatment in the criminal justice system from beginning to sentencing.
Race has become a lightning rod in this year’s election with the GOP led voter ID laws. Attorney General Holder has aggressively fought several states on the new laws. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, any changes in voting laws by many southern states with a history of discrimination, must be pre-cleared by the Justice Department before becoming law. The Justice Department blocked new voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas. Attorney General Holder objected to a photo ID requirement in Texas because it would have had a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters. Similarly, the South Carolina law was blocked because it would have an adverse effect on non-white voters. Both states have sued the Government.
Republicans have often had a contentious relationship with Attorney General Holder. That goes with the territory of being the first African American U.S. Attorney General. As chief law enforcement officer of the U.S, Attorney General Holder has taken an aggressive stance against the GOP fueled voter ID laws, voter registration changes and purging of voters from voting lists. And Republicans have backlashed against him. Whether it’s due to purely political reasons, racial motives or a combination of the two is debatable. Many blacks see the issue of politics and race too closely tied to dissect them on the Holder contempt. Non-minorities often call it playing the race card. The reality exists that race touches on every aspect of our society—whether we choose to admit it or not. Race is the thread that runs through all political garments.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post