African American women were excited about President Barack Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General of the United States. Since she has sailed through two Senate confirmations, her current confirmation ought to move quickly and without controversy.
But Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Tenn.) and his crowd seem to want to drag the process along, insisting on their “right” to question Lynch, and to make a spectacle of this confirmation.
There are dozens of vacancies in the ambassadorial ranks, among others, because Republicans have blocked Senate consideration of these appointments. Many Republican senators keep saying they want to work with the administration. One way to show it is to move some of the appointments out of gridlock.
Lynch would be the first African American woman to hold the position. This history-making nomination should not be tarnished by partisan nonsense. If Republicans are really trying to reach out to the African American community, conducting a non-hostile hearing this year would signal their willingness to “do the right thing” by African Americans.
President Obama is entitled to his choice for Attorney General. She has been fully vetted by the White House and has an exemplary record trying cases that range from police brutality to corporate fraud. Why would the Senate not choose to confirm this woman? Simply to flex their partisan muscles and flaunt their power?
I might remind the Senate of the mobilization that Black women influenced when Alexis Herman had a rocky road in her confirmation for Secretary of Labor in President Bill Clinton’s second term. Prominent African American women, including Dorothy Height and C. Delores Tucker, rallied their supporters. The message: “Don’t mess with Alexis.”
The foundation of another mobilization is present and opposition to the highly qualified Lynch sends a signal to African American women, and to others, that this is a hostile Senate. This is not new information, but is the kind of information that repels many from the Republican Party.
Maybe Republicans don’t care. Maybe, after their November rout, they feel no need to play nice with the president or with the people who didn’t support them. Memo to Republicans—two years from now you will have to defend your record. What will your vote on the Lynch confirmation say about you and your party? Republicans were the winners in the 2014 elections, but in some cases they didn’t win by much (neither did Democrats). The electorate is divided, and angry enough to simply stay home. Both parties need to activate their base so that more people are excited about participating in elections. Low voter turnout signals “none of the above.”
There is no African American woman in the Senate, and precious few in the House of Representatives. Undoubtedly, these women will speak up for Lynch, perhaps walking from the House offices to the Senate as they did in support of Anita Hill. The confirmation of Lynch is likely to be a watershed moment for the Senate. Will they act out of integrity or ignorance? Lynch deserves to be confirmed sooner rather than later, and the senators who talked bipartisan cooperation on the campaign trail need to practice what they preach.
CORRECTION: A few weeks ago, my column focused on for-profit colleges and erroneously posted the salaries of some of the senior officers in DeVry Inc. DeVry is a publicly traded company, and the company includes five colleges including a medical school, School of Business and Management and the school of Liberal Arts & Sciences. As a publicly traded company this entity has a board of directors (who earn approximately ($170,000 a year), and sets the salary for CEO Daniel Hamburger, who earned $6.4 million in fiscal year 2013. The president of DeVry University, David Pauldine, earned about $1.5 million in fiscal 2013.
Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and writer and president emerita of Bennett College for Women.
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