If you watched the Senate hearings for attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, you saw Democrats and their witnesses paint a disturbing picture of their colleague as a man who is insensitive, if not downright hostile, to the rights of minorities.
Much of it sounded familiar because, for more than thirty years now, Democrat senators and their allies have been using the same defamatory tactics against Southern white men nominated to the nation’s highest legal offices. The goal is to block their confirmation by exploiting the stereotype that Southerners are racist or otherwise bigoted.
This week marks the second time that Sen. Sessions has been subject to Senate Democrats’ go-to strategy of race-baiting (used here to include accusations of bigotry generally). The first time was in 1986, when Sessions — then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama — was nominated to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the witnesses they called attempted to portray Sessions as a racist, tenuously citing a voting-fraud case he brought against black politicians and a few isolated remarks he made to colleagues. Their cynical strategy was successful then; the nomination was defeated.
A year later, emboldened by their success, Democrats used similar tactics to defeat Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. That shameful spectacle, in which Ted Kennedy famously warned that Bork’s confirmation would bring the return of “segregated lunch counters” and other injustices, reminds us that white males from outside the South can also be victims of Democrats’ race-baiting.
But using the technique against white men from former slave states holds a special place in the heart of Senate Democrats.
Presidential nominees were safe from this race-baiting routine while Democrat Bill Clinton was selecting them. But no sooner did Republican George W. Bush win the presidency than did Democrats launch an assault on attorney general nominee John Ashcroft of Missouri, accusing him of being hostile to civil rights, gay rights, and the like.
That set the stage for a seemingly endless campaign of personal destruction against Southern white men nominated by President Bush to the U.S. Courts of Appeal, the highest level of courts below the Supreme Court. In 2007, I documented the sorry fact that every such nominee was subjected to a smear campaign focused, in six of the seven instances, on cries that he was insensitive to the rights of minorities, women, and gays.
Now, with another Republican president about to enter the White House, Senate Democrats and allied interest groups have seamlessly returned to their old race-baiting tricks. Jeff Sessions is their first target, just like John Ashcroft was when Bush became president. It is very predictable, because these tactics are in the blood of progressivism.
Writes Ken Blackwell, the first African-American elected to a statewide office in Ohio:
[S]omewhere, deep down [they don’t] believe a white man from Alabama should be the attorney general of the United States.
Blackwell was explaining the mainstream media’s zeal for “defin[ing] Mr. Sessions as a caricature, stepping straight out of the segregated south.” However, his explanation is equally true of Senate Democrats and their allies on the Left.
It is telling that, despite Jeff Sessions’s three decades of public service since his unsuccessful judicial nomination, Democrats’ racist caricature of him is still drawn from the dubious allegations left over from their 1986 takedown. As Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores noted:
These false portrayals of Sen. Sessions will fail as tired, recycled, hyperbolic charges that have been thoroughly rebuked and discredited.
Those charges have long since been rejected by the people who know him best, Alabama’s voters. Sessions’s sky-high popularity among Alabamians — including the 30-plus percent who are minorities — made him the only senator to run unopposed in 2014.
Though baseless, the charges against Sessions give us insight into how the race-baiting game has been played by Democrats and their accomplices for more than thirty years. They start with the assumption that a white, male Republican from the South is a bigot. Then they go back as many years as necessary to cherry pick a few pieces of “evidence” that, if cleverly distorted, support their assumption.
The distortions follow a familiar pattern. A typical technique is to turn a molehill into a mountain by taking things out of context. In the hands of Senate Democrats, a facetious remark by Jeff Sessions about the Ku Klux Klan became evidence that he approves of the Klan. Likewise, during John Ashcroft’s confirmation, his receipt of an honorary degree from Bob Jones University was taken as evidence that he supported all of the school’s policies, including a ban on interracial dating of which he was unaware.
Another typical race-baiting technique is to turn disagreements about policy into evidence of bigotry. More than thirty years ago, Sessions was heard criticizing some of the policies of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1980s. Senate Democrats concluded that, therefore, he dislikes black people. As a senator, Ashcroft was critical of racial preferences in federal contracting. He must be a racist, Democrats reasoned.
This sordid game frequently also involves the invention of racist motives for decisions that are more naturally explained otherwise. As a U.S. attorney, Sessions investigated a complaint by black officials and voters that rival black politicians had committed vote fraud. After finding that numerous absentee ballots had been altered without the voters’ permission, Sessions brought indictments. The real motive for the investigation was to intimidate Alabama’s black voters, Democrat senators and their allies contend.
Similarly, Democrats latched onto Sen. Ashcroft’s opposition to confirming Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White to the federal bench. Ashcroft explicitly based his opposition on his belief that White was soft on crime and anti-death penalty. Nonetheless, Senate Democrats divined that Ashcroft opposed the nominee because he is black.
That Democrats are still playing this game in 2017 confirms Blackwell’s observation that Sessions’s critics “have learned nothing from the presidential campaign.”
During the campaign, the opponents of Donald Trump focused on exploiting every opportunity to portray him as a bigot. This one-dimensional, overwrought, tired, and ultimately unsuccessful line of attack is very similar to the strategy now being employed by the opponents of Sessions’s confirmation.
At a time when 73% of American voters believe that politicians raise racial issues only to get elected, this strategy is virtually certain to fail.