craven: having or showing a complete lack of courage
contemptible: not worthy of respect or approval
political: involving, concerned with, or accused of acts against a government
hack: a person who works solely for mercenary reasons
–ery: the practice of
Let us be clear. When Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority in the United States Senate voted to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren as she attempted to read from a document that had been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and kept out of the Senate record, they showed their true colors as craven, contemptible, political hacks. Under the cover of Senate Rule 19, using the same tortured, twisted hermeneutical logic that led him to think he and his party were not acting against the US Constitution when they stole a nomination to the Supreme Court under President Obama, McConnell trashed the first amendment to the Bill of Rights on the Senate floor.
Fortunately, this nonsense only had authority on the Senate floor, and Senator Warren was able to continue to read a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 by Coretta Scott King in opposition to the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship. If it is true that past is prologue, the concern then, as if is now, was that Sessions would not uphold voting rights for all citizens of the United States.
Coretta Scott King said in her letter:
“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
In a written statement to the Judiciary Committee, King testified to “politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions” on the part of Sessions and “. . . indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws.”
Unfortunately, her words still resonate in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act with a number of states instituting laws that make it more difficult for citizens to vote, especially minorities, the poor, and the elderly. The current president of the United States has made unfounded claims of voter fraud that only feeds the myth that widespread voter fraud exists and that laws that actually restrict legal voting are necessary.
King wrote of the importance of the Voting Rights Act to our democracy:
“The Voting Rights Act was, and still is, vitally important to the future of democracy in the United States.” She wrote about voter intimidation and Sessions’ participation in it:
“The actions taken by Mr. Sessions in regard to the 1984 voting fraud prosecutions represent just one more technique used to intimidate Black voters and thus deny them this most precious franchise.”
She wrote of the long way we as a nation have to go “before we can say that minorities no longer need be concerned about discrimination at the polls.” She says further:
“Blacks, Hispanics, Native American, and Asian Americans are grossly underrepresented at every level of government in America. If we are going to make our timeless dream of justice through democracy a reality, we must take every possible step to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution is honored.”
More than thirty years ago, then chair of the judiciary committee, Strom Thurmond, wanted to keep Coretta Scott King’s words out of the Senate record. In February, 2017, Mitch McConnell tried and failed to do the same thing. After he silenced Senator Warren, some of her male Democratic colleagues completed the reading. He did not silence them. In the end, Coretta Scott King’s words were heard.
Political pundits are reading this event within the context of presidential politics. Are the Democrats still angry about the outcome of the 2016 election? Is this the first step by Senator Warren on the road to a presidential run in 2020? Neither of these questions gets to the heart of the matter.