Incensed about the stalled confirmation process of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, Democrats are accusing the Republican Party of being racist…ish.
Though they spent the last week dropping not-so-subtle hints, Democrats don’t quite want to explicitly say what they’re been implying: that Republicans are holding up Lynch primarily due to her race.
Take the press conference on Thursday afternoon, when a number of Democrats continued linking Lynch’s predicament with her racial background.
“It’s clear to me that there is hidden racism rampant in the House and the Senate,” said Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown. But she did not substantiate her claim with specific evidence of Republican racism in Lynch’s confirmation process.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said there was a “strong racial element” in the confirmation delay, telling reporters that “the point of race and gender is very clear. You are discounting her, and you can’t help but think that when people have been discounted, it has been minorities that have been discounted.”
Added Rep. Charlie Rangel, “It is my opinion that if the late Martin Luther King was up for confirmation in the United States Senate, that he too would have a very, very difficult time. There has to be a reason, and that, to me, is my reason.”
It has been more than 131 days since Lynch was nominated to be attorney general. If confirmed, she would be the first female African American to serve in that role.
The holdup has been unprecedented: As of Monday, Lynch’s nomination will have been left unaddressed by the full Senate for 25 days—longer than the last seven attorneys general had to wait, combined.
In all the time that Lynch’s nomination has been pending, there has been no evidence that Republicans were motivated by anything other than politics.
Unsubstantiated claims of racism is a strategy that could backfire, argued Roland Martin, an African-American journalist and television personality who occasionally contributes to The Daily Beast.
“The conversation now is not about Loretta Lynch and the delay, it’s about Dick Durbin invoking race. Now he’s the center of the story, instead of the ridiculous delays for Loretta Lynch,” he said.
Number two Senate Democrat Dick Durbin said Wednesday that Lynch was being “asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar.”
GOP Senator John McCain took Durbin to task for the remark on Thursday, arguing that to “use that imagery and suggest that racist tactics are being employed… has no place in this body and serves no purpose other than to further divide us.”
By invoking race unnecessarily, it gives credibility to those who don’t want to ever talk about race, argued Martin.
“The harm of bringing race into this is that you’re invoking race when it is not the dominant issue,” Martin said, referring to Durbin’s remarks. “It’s ridiculous… you gave them a dish on a silver platter from a Democrat in the leadership!”
Rangel himself appeared somewhat divided on whether to bring up race in a Thursday afternoon press conference.
“For some Americans, racism is an awkward subject to talk about. But we cannot eliminate or [bring] this problem to light unless we admit we have it… to run away from it is wrong,” the New York Democrat said.
But then, Rangel held back on elaborating: “Quite frankly, I don’t want to answer any more questions because the whole world is watching, and I doubt whether anybody is making any different reasons for [Lynch’s confirmation delay].”
Democrats have long felt President Barack Obama has gotten unprecedentedly poor treatment from Republicans, at least in part because he is the first African-American president. The disrespect of GOP Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You Lie!” still lingers in their mind.
And Lynch herself has had her dealings with racism: After receiving the highest grades in her high school class, she was forced to share the the role of valedictorian with white students due to administrators who feared a backlash over a lone African American holding that honor.
But the ultimate takeaway, Martin argued, is that Lynch’s confirmation is about politics—not race.
“Dick Durbin, if he needs to blame anybody, he needs to start with himself and Sen. Harry Reid. They should have gotten votes to confirm before Republicans took control of the Senate [in January],” he told The Daily Beast. “It is shameful to watch the U.S. Senate, how they behave, don’t get work done—and they want to sit there and grandstand.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, is both enthusiastically supportive of Lynch's nomination and strenuous in pushing back against the idea that his fellow Republicans were opposing Lynch on the basis of race or gender.
“Loretta Lynch could be Lawrence Lynch and she’d be just as qualified... it would be significant to have the first African American woman attorney general, I think that would be a milestone, but I think in many ways that's irrelevant to her qualifications” Giuliani said Friday. “I am a conservative on most legal matters… and I would probably selected her as attorney general had I been elected president way back when I failed when I ran.”
Giuliani said he had been working with GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham to urge Republicans to support Lynch, as well as to bring her nomination up for a vote. The former mayor said that Lynch was “more than qualified—she's overqualified.”