By Mary B. Jacoby | September 26th, 2010 9:58 pm
We at Main Justice have filed 42 stories since May 2009 about the Obama Justice Department’s controversial decision to drop most of a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party.
Why? Because we’ve been around Washington long enough to recognize the conservative political machine’s windup to a curve ball pitch. And now we have it: Allegations splashed on the front page of Saturday’s Washington Post that the Obama administration is biased against white voters!
These allegations have been aired for months and months on Fox News and in the dwindling pages of the apparently bankrupt Washington Times. But the goal of the conservatives who nurtured this story – with help from conservatives inside the DOJ — was always to get them “validated” by a non-ideological respected mainstream outlet. Now they’ve done it, thanks to a deluge of calls to the Post’s ombudsman, who criticized the paper for not getting to the bottom of the story and apparently spurred the Post to action.
Meanwhile, the administration and its liberal defenders have done nothing to “make news” on this story, which means they are only reacting to a narrative the conservatives are driving. Admittedly, it’s tough: They are saddled by the odious Panthers, a hate group that no one wants to be seen as defending.
And the news on Friday was real: The DOJ’s former Voting Section chief, Christopher Coates, testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that that he observed a “deep-seated” opposition in the department to pursuing cases that protected the voting rights of whites. But as we’ll see later, Coates is hardly the non-political career lawyer his champions make him out to be.
First, though, it’s unclear that there are massive numbers of white voters in America who are being kept from the polls – at least not in the way Southern states once used poll taxes, literacy tests and other gimmicks to disenfranchise black voters, spurring the 1957 Civil Rights Act that established the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
What’s true is that a 2005 voting case the Bush DOJ brought against black Democratic Party officials in Noxubee County, Miss., met strong opposition from the mostly liberal career Voting Section lawyers then in place at the DOJ. And it’s also true that Attorney General Eric Holder last year said the division was returning to its “historical mission” of protecting minority rights after Bush political appointees caused turmoil in the Civil Rights Division.
From these thin reeds, conservatives have managed to gain traction with this extraordinary narrative: The first black U.S. president, under the first black Attorney General, don’t believe in enforcing anti-discrimination laws when the victims are white.
The Obama administration is yet again caught in a familiar racial trap. But unlike the Shirley Sherrod incident, this one didn’t sneak up on them. You would think they’d have devised more effective response.
What’s masterful about the conservative narrative is that no white voters – or any voters at all – have come forward to complain they were intimidated by two members of a racist fringe group called the New Black Panther Party, who stood outside a majority black Philadelphia polling place in 2008 wearing black berets and fatigues. Read more.