Politics & Policy

Sessions Is No Racist: Take Black Democrats’ Word for It

Sessions at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Reuters photo: Mark Kauzlarich)
Leftist lawmakers who ignore his record — and their own former praise of him — will only anger voters tired of the race card.

Mobile, Ala. — When national and local NAACP leaders staged a sit-in here in Senator Jeff Sessions’s Mobile office, they probably made it more difficult, not less, for a number of Democratic senators to oppose his appointment as U.S. attorney general.

The wolf-cries of “racism” against a man who obviously isn’t racist are perfect examples of the behavior against which voters in red states have so dramatically rebelled.

Five of the Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018 — Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — come from red states that Donald Trump won by high double digits, ranging from Missouri’s 18.7-point margin to West Virginia’s 42.1. (Of these five senators, only Manchin has so far pledged to vote for Sessions.) And Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and Florida’s Bill Nelson, both Democrats, represent states that not only voted for Trump but also just reelected Republican senators by 21.8 points and 7.7 points, respectively.

The population in most of these states is significantly more Caucasian than in the country at large: 84 percent white in Indiana, 90 percent in both Montana and North Dakota, for instance. In a nation where half of all voters, 57 percent of white voters, 66 percent of white working-class voters, and 81 percent of Trump voters think (rightly or wrongly) that “reverse discrimination” is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities, it stands to reason that even more of them think that accusations of racism are suspect, too frequent, and unfair.

Rasmussen reports that two-thirds of all Americans (and surely more in red states) believe that “political correctness” is a significant problem today (a University of Virginia poll says it’s 72 percent) and that 73 percent think that politicians raise issues of race only to get elected, while just 14 percent say politicians do so to address real issues.

Histrionic agitators on racial issues seem to turn off adherents rather than attract them. Witness the November Rasmussen poll showing skepticism of Black Lives Matter, by a 2–1 margin. And while Americans clearly support the right of peaceful dissent, they balk when protesters physically occupy spaces and interfere with people’s lives or work. And after the initial excitement wore off, Americans overwhelmingly disapproved of the “Occupy” movement earlier this decade. Yet those were the tactics chosen in Mobile Tuesday by the NAACP leaders who wouldn’t leave Sessions’s office until escorted out and arrested by local police.

Red-state voters will particularly resent Democratic obstructionism against a nominee such as Sessions, an Eagle Scout who is seen by many as a “law and order” exemplar. A soft-spoken man of almost elfin appearance with a charmingly (and palpably sincere) courteous manner, he is a man as far in demeanor from racist Bull Connor as Barack Obama is from murderous Willie Horton. Every time they see their home-state senator smear Sessions as a racist, they might well recall Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of Trump voters as “deplorables.”

And for those red-state voters who go beyond feelings to facts, the bond with Sessions will only grow.

Histrionic agitators on racial issues seem to turn off adherents rather than attract them.

In all the local interviews I’ve heard (unless I missed one, which I doubt), the NAACP officials, without exception, attributed their fierce opposition to Sessions primarily to a 1985 voting-fraud case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Mobile then led by Sessions. They and other leftists have repeatedly portrayed the case, in the rural “Black Belt” county of Perry, as an attempt to “suppress” black votes. On its very face, the allegation is absurd: The original complaint was brought to the feds by one group of black officials (and voters) alleging that other black officials had committed fraud. It was not white against black, but black against black: There was no racial element to the case at all. And while the defendants eventually were acquitted, the evidence of at least unusual (if not illegal) behavior by the defendants was substantial.

Indeed, as Artur Davis, a black Democrat who represented Alabama’s seventh district from 2003 to 2011, told the Montgomery Advertiser in 2012, “The truth is that the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African-American community, at least in Alabama, is the wholesale manufacture of ballots, at the polls and absentee, in parts of the Black Belt.”

In other words, this is exactly the fraud that Sessions and his staff were trying to deter.

The pièce de résistance, though, in refuting the voter-suppression allegation against Sessions came Wednesday morning. Perry County commissioner Albert Turner Jr., namesake son of the very man who was the defendant in that 1985 case, endorsed Sessions in a lengthy statement that included direct references to the case. An excerpt:

I have known Senator Sessions for many years, beginning with the voter fraud case in Perry County in which my parents were defendants. My differences in policy and ideology with him do not translate to personal malice. He is not a racist. As I have said before, at no time then or now has Jeff Sessions said anything derogatory about my family. He was a prosecutor at the Federal level with a job to do. He was presented with evidence by a local District Attorney that he relied on, and his office presented the case. That’s what a prosecutor does. I believe him when he says that he was simply doing his job. I believe that he is someone with whom I, and others in the civil rights community can work if given the opportunity.

Sessions’s nomination is likewise supported by President Obama’s former surgeon general, black Alabamian Regina Benjamin; by Alabama state-senate Democratic leader Quinton Ross, also black; and by a host of other black Alabamians of both parties.

Red-state voters surely won’t put up with their senators voting against a colleague for spurious reasons, when these senators are on record praising, liking, and working well with that same man. Florida’s Bill Nelson and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly are known to have an excellent working relationship with Sessions, and Claire McCaskill’s relationship with Sessions is almost as solid. And, of course, even some of the decidedly leftist Democrats now making the most noise against Sessions have said wonderful things about him, on the record, in the past: New York’s Chuck Schumer called him “straightforward and fair,” Vermont’s Pat Leahy called him “wonderful to work with,” and Illinois’s Richard Durbin called him “a man of his word.” Even left-most labor secretary Tom Perez has effusively praised Sessions in multiple forums.

#related#The Democratic senators know that Sessions is no racist. Their voters know that Sessions is no racist. And their voters know that their senators know he is no racist. In fact, as they see Sessions handle himself with courtesy and dignity during next week’s confirmation hearings, those red-state voters will resent, strongly, any attempt to join with NAACP occupiers in smearing the Alabaman.

If the best evidence the Left can concoct against Sessions relies on discredited allegations more than three decades old, and if the Left ignores Sessions’s spotless record in public life ever since, the Left will fail, soundly. Any red-state senator who tries to play the race card against Sessions will find himself trumped (or Trumped), decisively, at the ballot box in 2018.

Most Popular


Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More