It's really a sad day in this country when an incredibly qualified nominee to the Department of Justice is blocked not only by Republicans, but also spineless Democrats who gave in to racist tropes to justify their vote.
Before Senate Republicans frightened a handful of Democrats into helping them shoot down Debo Adegbile’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division, the chamber ran so loudly with the words “cop-killer” that you might have thought Ice-T was addressing the Senate.
As director of litigation with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Adegbile had presided over a team representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1981 of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Though Adegbile was a child when Faulkner was killed, the NAACP LDF represented Abu-Jamal during his post-conviction appeal proceedings in the late 2000s, and federal courts ultimately concluded that sentencing instructions were improper, which spared Abu-Jamal the death penalty.
To hear Republicans talk, Adegbile practically led the movement of “Free Mumia” supporters who became convinced that Abu-Jamal had been framed, instead of the LDF simply ensuring a reviled defendant received his constitutional right to due process.
Watch Chris Hayes and Ben Jealous rip them all for their cowardly, racist act. Jealous said it best when he said those seven Democrats "do not deserve to be called Democrats" because they sold out their base. Amen.
And with that cowardly act, they enabled Republicans to continue their war on the Civil Rights division of the DOJ. Really good work there, Dems. Oh, here are their names, so you know exactly who was responsible: Chris Coons (DE), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Bob Casey (PA), John Walsh (MT), and Joe Donnelly (IN).
This is what they enabled:
Even if Adegbile had been more directly involved in Abu-Jamal’s defense, that alone would not have been reason to disqualify him. The legal system cannot provide justice if attorneys are identified with hated clients–that would corrode the essence of a system in which everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense. Republicans know this–it’s why they didn’t attack Chief Justice John Roberts for his pro-bono work on behalf of a mass murderer–but the opportunity sink an Obama nominee and further discredit the civil rights cause was too tempting to disregard.
Adegbile’s defeat has another salutory effect for conservatives–it sends the message to young, idealistic liberal lawyers that the Democratic Party will not stand behind you if you taken on controversial causes or clients. Better to take on corporate clients whose political contributions and influence can shield you from controversy. While conservatives are free to associate with any number of right-leaning legal organizations, mere association with civil rights groups will have you branded an anti-white racist and radical, especially if you’re not white.
Therein lies the greater danger of Adegbile’s defeat, that the next generation of government lawyers to staff a Democratic administration won’t just not believe in the purpose behind the laws they’re meant to enforce. It’s that they won’t believe in anything at all.
A pox on all their houses.