J. Christian Adams: Why the Left Shouldn’t Defend the New Black Panther Dismissal
Judging by the reflexive personal attacks and amateurish legal arguments, they fail to see they undermine their — and our — shared goals: the dismissal will be used by the defense in future civil rights law cases.
July 19, 2010 - 12:00 am
Since my testimony before the Civil Rights Commission under oath on July 6 about various corrupt policies relating to enforcement of election law at the Department of Justice, the left-wing soldiers on the internet have marched into action. They have made personal attacks and made multiple factual errors in defending the dismissal. This is unfortunate, because they are harming a cause they profess to support — the right to vote. In their reflexive personal attacks and amateurish legal arguments, they fail to see they are undermining their own long-term goals, namely vigorous enforcement of voter intimidation and civil rights laws. Perhaps it is not too late for the more reasonable among them to understand their approach to the New Black Panther dismissal is suicidal.
My testimony has since been corroborated by at least four individuals with firsthand knowledge of the open hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the law inside the DOJ, and to enforcement of Section 8 of Motor Voter. Two of these witnesses did so under oath, and more will be coming forward to corroborate my testimony in the days and weeks ahead. (PJM has published some of the corroboration here, here, and here.)
Of course, the outstanding subpoena of former voting section chief Christopher Coates hangs over the DOJ like the Sword of Damocles, and over the head of those making personal attacks. Anyone who has spoken with Coates over the last few years knows exactly what his testimony will be. Anyone who has read his going-away speech to the entire voting section knows exactly what his testimony would be. And anyone familiar with the unimpeachable reputation of Coates knows his testimony will silence the phony personal attacks and move the discussion to where it belongs — how to fix things. Additional corroboration to my testimony, which Coates would provide, cannot be concealed forever.
No wonder the DOJ is so desperate to block his compliance with lawful subpoenas. We had expected so much more from this Justice Department sworn to restore integrity and transparency.
There are two important reasons why those defending the dismissal of the case through personal attacks should stand down.
Firstly, not only will the attacks prove absurd as more and more truth emerges about the matter, but the dismissal creates an unwelcome and dangerous factual floor in defining future voter intimidation. It is a floor we should fear, because it makes future cases harder to bring. Secondly, the dismissal undermines broad support for important voting rights protections as the nation becomes more racially diverse.
Neither outcome is what the defenders of the dismissal want, and they should reconsider their rabid attacks.
Think about this — even taking the facts in the most favorable light for the defenders of the dismissal, ponder how it restrains future enforcement activity against intimidation. There may come a day when two skinheads are in front of a poll, say, in suburban Atlanta. The precinct is 90 percent white, but about 10 percent African-American. One has a baseball bat, but the other does not. They are dressed identically in skinhead uniforms with swastika insignia. They work together and shout racial slurs we all know and hate. Worse, the week before, the national skinhead party had announced a nationwide deployment of skinheads, and these clowns show up on cue. NAACP poll monitors there to aid voters see voters turn away upon seeing the skinheads. The skinheads try to block the NAACP staff from entering the polls, and brandish the bat. The NAACP staff swear this all happened under oath. Then days later the national skinhead leader admits they were indeed deployed as part of the party activities and the use of the weapon was an “emergency response.”
Worse, after claiming to banish these two skinheads, video emerges with the national leader standing on stage with the two at a rally, praising them and welcoming them back into the skinhead nation.
Every American knows what should happen on these facts. Sadly, these facts are precisely identical to what happened in Philadelphia, except the races are reversed.
Someone with some intellectual honesty please explain to all of us something. In the future, how can the DOJ stop the behavior I described above? The dismissal of the case against the New Black Panthers harms future efforts to stop voter intimidation, especially on any fact pattern less egregious than what happened in Philadelphia.
It would be foolish to imagine that the dismissal hasn’t already affected DOJ policy and altered their approach to other matters. It certainly will make them gun shy going forward in future elections. Cases which could have been brought in the future won’t be. They know that the public, and lawyers for defendants, will use the dismissal of the New Black Panther case against them.
It is a genuine tragedy that should concern those on the left.
You can see why the corrupt dismissal is a blow to the rule of law and the sanctity of the ballot box. Defenders on the left who agree with me that the right to vote is sacred should have the foresight to see past partisan instincts, and look a few steps down the road to where the dismissal takes this nation. What a colossal strategic error to revert to personal attacks when something so precious is at stake.
What happens when more and more come forward to corroborate my account? Perhaps then, they will see we share the same goal — to protect the ballot box from all thuggery — and start talking about solutions.
The second reason that the left should care about the dismissal is because it undermines support for a broad civil rights agenda. I have been doing dozens of radio and television shows across this nation, and will do more. And I can tell you that Americans are furious that some in Washington don’t think they are protected by civil rights laws, particularly voting laws, because their skin color disqualifies them.
Do not underestimate the damage the dismissal is doing to broad support for civil rights laws, particularly in voting.
If Christopher Coates were allowed to comply with the lawful subpoena served upon him by the Civil Rights Commission, I’m pretty sure he would tell the Commission what he told the entire voting section at his going away party. He said it better than I could:
America is increasingly a multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural society. For such a diverse group of people to be able to live and function together in a democratic society, there have to be certain common standards that we are bound by and that protect us all. In fact, as we become more diverse, it is even more important that our national standards of non-discrimination are enforced by the federal government. One of these most basic standards is equal protection under the law. When that is violated, America does not live up to the true meaning of its creed. When it is followed, the country functions the way it was intended to.
For the Department of Justice to enforce the Voting Rights Act only to protect members of certain minority groups breaches the fundamental guarantee of equal protection, and could substantially erode public support for the Voting Rights Act itself. My fourth reason for this kind of law enforcement is very simple: Selective enforcement of the law, including the Voting Rights Act, on the basis of race is just not fair and does not achieve justice.
“Substantially erode public support,” indeed.
Why should a group of people support a vigorous civil rights agenda when evidence mounts that they are not intended by many to be protected? The extraordinary moral authority wielded by the civil rights movement came from a vision of genuine equality. All men are created equal by God, and therefore all are entitled to be treated equally by law. The authors of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments had a radical and noble purpose — to level the law so that for the first time on earth, all races were treated with equality and dignity by a sovereign. The authors knew firsthand the sacrifice in blood and treasure given to achieve this radical agenda, for towns across the South remained in ruins, and bodies were still left unburied in places like the Wilderness and Chickamauga when these three Amendments were ratified.
As evidenced by his speech, Coates also understands the importance of equal enforcement of the law to the broad support for the Voting Rights Act and civil rights laws. Those on the left defending the dismissal should recognize the damage they do to our shared agenda of vigorous enforcement of equality. Many Americans will rightfully become hostile toward enforcement of civil rights laws if they believe the laws do not protect them also. Is that the America you on the left want?
If history shows us anything, once one group of people feel they are excluded from the guarantees of equal protection, they wield enormous moral authority in their grievance. The “arc of history” inevitably “bends toward justice” in their direction. Hopefully, the rabid defenders of the New Black Panther dismissal will eventually recognize they are hurting their own cause. It will be more difficult to stop future voter intimidation, and fewer people will support the Voting Rights Act if they feel excluded from its protections.
Let us get past the personal attacks and move onto a substantive discussion of how to fix things inside the DOJ.