Donald Trump’s incoherent and insane press conference today reinforced how the president-elect is the greatest threat to democracy in our lifetime. He has little regard for the Constitution, the rule of law, or core democratic institutions.
Trump’s press conference was exhibit A for why we need a strong and independent attorney general who can stand up to the president. Yet while Trump rambled from the podium, civil-rights activists were testifying about how his attorney-general nominee, Jeff Sessions, would undermine one of the most important rights in a democracy: the right to vote.
“It is Senator Sessions’s record on voting rights that is perhaps the most troubling,” said NAACP President Cornell Brooks, pointing to Sessions’s prosecution of civil-rights activists for voter fraud, support for gutting the Voting Rights Act, and backing of discriminatory voter-ID laws.
“He will be expected to enforce voting rights, but his record indicates that he won’t,” said New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who took the unprecedented step of testifying against a fellow senator.
The civil-rights icon John Lewis was one of the last people to testify during the two-day hearings, but one of the most powerful voices. “Those who are committed to equal justice in our society wonder whether Senator Sessions’s call for law and order will mean today what it meant in Alabama when I was coming up back then,” Congressman Lewis said. “The rule of law was used to violate the human and civil rights of the poor, the dispossessed, people of color.”
Lewis said he’d come to testify on behalf of “millions of Americans [who] are concerned that some leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of the law was used to deny the freedoms protected by the Constitution.”
In 1965, Lewis nearly died marching to pass the Voting Rights Act, which Sessions called “intrusive.” One of the people who marched directly behind Lewis on Bloody Sunday was Albert Turner Jr., who Sessions prosecuted for voter fraud 20 years later. When Lewis was brutally beaten by Alabama state troopers, Turner can be seen running for his life.