A Government of and for Whom?
The problems for the administration these days almost seem to be coming out of the woodwork. One situation might inspire another whistleblower to come forward. That appears to be what happened earlier this week when the former chief of the voting section of he civil right division in the Justice Department wrote an op-ed for the LA Times. This will come as no surprise if you've been paying attention, but according to Joseph D. Rich, the Bush Justice Department has been subverting the enforcement of civil rights laws to skew elections. Maybe it's better for him to tell it:
Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.
It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.
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This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman's central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.
Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.
Schlozman continued to influence elections as an interim U.S. attorney. Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department's long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration's aims more transparent.
Hand in hand with these kinds of moves is the alienation of career employees who don't politicize their roles. As those people move out of the Justice Department, they're replaced by others for whom politics is all. The intentions of such people are not to maintain the government and make sure it's working for all its constituents but to strengthen their party--in this case, Republicans--no matter what the cost. The government of the people and for the people is subverted by those looking out only for their own interests or those of a small elite. I hate to state the obvious, but that's not democracy.