We always knew he was that kid. The one who ran to the teacher to complain about his grade. Here it is, more grotesque than ever, on display as a United States Senator, holding the distinguished rank of Chairperson of the Judiciary Committee. In Day Two of William Barr's confirmation hearings for Attorney General, Senator Lindsay Graham badgered and bullied Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP about why his and other GOP senators' grades on the NAACP report cards were so low.
The questions barely focused on Mr. Barr at all. Graham opened by saying that he'd voted for Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder for AG...what was Johnson's objection to Barr? (Translation: I voted for two Black AGs — doesn't that mean I can vote for a racist white one, now?) Johnson answered that he didn't feel confident Barr had the firm commitment that Lynch and Holder had to upholding Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits jurisdictions from establishing requirements for voting based on race or other minority status. Graham went on to dismiss this concern as simply a difference in "policy" — and he doesn't take "policy differences" into consideration when voting to confirm an AG.
This is the ULTIMATE in white supremacist thinking. Reducing the fundamental right to cast a ballot fairly for minorities, particularly Black people, in this country, to a simple "policy difference." It is what differentiates a citizen from a non-citizen, and Johnson said as much. Minus the white supremacy, part.
Then, in outlining Johnson's concerns regarding Barr's lack of appreciation for the racial inequities of the criminal justice system, made abundantly clear in his answers to Senator Booker's questions yesterday, Graham couldn't wait to interrupt and whitesplain Barr's testimony to him.
GRAHAM: I want you to make sure you understand what he said because I remember Senator Booker asked him. He says, yes, the crack cocaine sentences were disproportionate to the African-American individual and that's one we changed, the difference between powder cocaine and crack cocaine. He acknowledged that, but in 1992 he thought the biggest victim of rampant violent crime were -- you know, low income, mostly minority communities. So I don't buy what you're saying about him not understanding their differences in how one group is affected, particularly in the drug arena.
Basically, "You don't get it. He didn't say what you heard. I don't like what you think, even though what you're saying is born out in the man's testimony."
And that's the GOOD part. Here is where he launches into whiny brat mode about the GOP's grades on the NAACP report card. "Why did I only get a 22% when every DEM got 100% It's not FAIR! How can a GOP Senator get a GOOD grade? I'm not a racist, am I? AM I?"
Um... (here is where I REALLY wish my boss let me put GIFs into my posts...)
Mr. Johnson explained that the NAACP is non-partisan, and it's based solely on the agenda of the politician. Again, what are their policies? Their priorities? What laws do they sign? How do they vote on things? Sen. Graham whined back, But how is it DECIDED? WHO gets to decide??? Do you have any REPUBLICANS on the committee who hands out the grades? WWWAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH
Again, Mr. Johnson patiently explained to him that things like fair housing, ability to cast a ballot fairly, criminal justice reform, all things that impact the African-American community disproportionately and deeply unfairly, are the things that matter to them when evaluating whether a politician gets a good grade. He even went into the history of why many Black people belonged to the Republican Party before the Voting Rights Act, and why they migrated to the Democrats after it. Another attempt to give this man (a Senator, I remind you!) the history lesson he desperately needs.
Graham asked incredulously, if the problem was on HIS side. As if that was the most ludicrous notion proposed.
Yes, Lindsey, the problem is on your side.
GRAHAM: It's pretty odd to me that every Democrat gets 100% and I do the best as a Republican getting 22%. Maybe the problem is all on our side. I don't think so. I think the agenda that you're pursuing in the eyes of conservatives is not as good for the country as you think it is. It's got nothing to do about Republican and Democrat. It has to do with liberal and conservative. Why does every conservative on this committee -- the best I can do is get 22?
Of course you don't think so. Racists never think the problem is them. And how on god's green earth is the "agenda" the NAACP is pursuing, listed above, NOT good for the country? It's not good for privileged people who don't want to give up their privilege. It's not good for white people who see things through a zero sum lens. But the sooner everyone sees that a rising tide lifts all boats, the better. Mr. Johnson took the opportunity to turn the boat around by answering Graham's schoolboy's complaints with the best teacher's response conceivable.
I think the members of the Republican Party should ask yourselves, are you willing to be expansive enough, and inclusive to ensure the rights of individuals — despite their racial background, their interests are met. Not based on conservative or liberal tendencies but based on those individuals' needs and interests that they are asking for.
Amen, Teach. Class dismissed.