Thurgood Marshall, an icon of Civil Rights, was nominated by President Lyndon Johnson to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court in October 1967. After Marshall was confirmed by the Senate, he became the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court. Marshall served until his retirement in October 1991. Upon his retirement, George H.W. Bush wasted no time in nominating another African American to take Marshall’s seat. Before the end of October 1991, a Democrat-controlled Senate had confirmed Thomas as the second African American to sit on the Supreme Court. This occurred only 13 months out from the election of 1992 which saw the election of Bill Clinton as President. Moreover, although Marshall and Thomas were both African Americans, there was and continues to be a world of difference between the two Justices. Whereas Marshall was a champion of Civil Rights, Thomas has yet to see a Civil Rights law that he respects. Thomas even voted to gut the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. This ruling has led to more suppression of the Black vote and crippled registration and voter turnout efforts in the Black community as well as other communities of color. The current Vice President, Joe Biden, was Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time of Thomas’s confirmation hearings. There were ample reasons not to confirm Thomas to the court. However, after Thomas gave his command performance of being a victim of a “high-tech lynching,” the Democrats caved and confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court. I often share this story with my classes in explaining why I left the Democratic Party.
Antonin Scalia was nominated by Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court in September 1986. After his confirmation, Scalia served on the Court until his unexpected death in February of 2016. While on the Court Scalia became the intellectual leader of the ultra-conservative right wing of the Court. One could even argue that became Clarence Thomas’s brain on the Court. Thomas was silent during oral arguments while Scalia was open and combative. Nevertheless, after the dust settled, Thomas would vote in lockstep with the Court’s conservative majority. In short, Scalia was to conservative causes what Marshall had become too liberal causes. Upon Scalia’s death, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left by Scalia. Garland is the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. which is known in legal circles as a mini Supreme Court. Garland was not even seen as a liberal choice. His record was more of a centrist. He never had any problems with earlier confirmations and received high bipartisan praise as well high marks from the American Bar Association. The fact that the Republican-controlled Senate would not even hold hearings on his nomination showed just how obstructionist and anti-Obama Republicans had become. This occurred ten months out from the 2016 election. One can argue that the Court will have been hobbled for more than a year simply because of the obstructionist Republican Party. Moreover, their behavior is being rewarded. Whereas President Obama was denied his constitutional right to appoint a Justice to the Supreme Court, the next President who courts White supremacists promotes bigotry and exhibits misogynistic tendencies will be given the opportunity to add to the Court. The Democratic minority will not object. More than likely you will not hear a whimper from the Democratic minority. In short, Democrats keep bringing knives to gun fights.
James Comey began a ten-year appointment to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 4, 2013. He had no problems being confirmed by the Senate. Eric Holder, the first African-American Attorney General, announced in 2014 that he would step down in 2015. Loretta Lynch, who would become the first African-American woman to head the Justice Department, was nominated to succeed Holder in November of 2014. She was not confirmed until February of 2015. President Obama selected James Comey, who was a Republican and served under George W. Bush, in order to promote the idea of a “team of rivals” and to show that a Democratic Administration was not an inherently mutually exclusive reality to Republicans when it came to selecting the best person to fill an administrative post. On October 28, 2016, Comey broke protocol and sent a letter to Congress informing the body of additional Clinton related emails that had been found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop which had been shared with his estranged wife and Hillary Clinton top aid. When the story broke, it threw the Clinton Campaign into chaos and gave the opposition additional talking points to feed into the untrustworthy Clinton narrative that had been cultivated by the opposition party. The Clinton campaign lost significant ground in the polls and was unable to recover before crashing and burning on election night.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama tirelessly campaigned for Hillary Clinton to become the first woman President of the United States. In order to secure the Obama legacy, it was necessary for Clinton to be elected. That attempt was a glaring failure. The irony here is that for all the hard work that President Obama put into the Clinton election campaign, his heroic efforts were undermined by a simple one-page letter issued by a Republican whom he had nominated to head the FBI.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”