Not even two weeks ago, Holder put his enduring composure on display as Congressman Darrell Issa subjected his office to partisan scrutiny in a feigned counter-conspiracy effort to uncover a non-existent “scandal” (to run guns into Mexico) and to hedge against a trumped-up accusation that Holder himself was attempting to cultivate collective political will for greater gun control. We can only hope that gun control is on the AG’s agenda. What seems more likely though is that conservatives, and the House of Representatives especially, consider Holder to be public enemy Number 2 — right behind the POTUS, and squarely in their political crosshairs.
The so-called “Fast and Furious” dust-up is really just more political warfare — waged against an AG who has taken on yet another important civil rights effort with historic race-based outcomes. Yesterday, at the annual NAACP convention, Holder referred to the Republican party’s concerted efforts to implement voter ID laws across a swath of battleground states as a “poll tax.” That’s important political rhetoric, alluding to a particularly racialized moment in our national history. The poll tax was an effective way for post-reconstruction white supremacists to sustain the disenfranchisement of African-Americans well into the 20th Century.
- Related: How poll taxes have historically hurt black Americans
- Flashback: Holder says things Obama can’t
Holder is not alone in his historical understanding of this effort to implement voter ID laws. A Republican Congressman in Pennsylvania recently claimed that Voter ID laws in the Keystone state will help ensure Romney’s victory. If he represents his party’s strategic inclinations, then shame on Republicans, but — like the audience at his speech delivered at the NAACP convention and the audience that spontaneously honored him at a recent Stylistics concert in Washington DC — we all need to give Holder a standing ovation for his work on behalf of racial progress. He understands what many a great American has always understood: we can only live up to our nation’s promise if we remain committed to justice and equality for all.
Dr. James B. Peterson is the director of Africana Studies and an associate professor of English at Lehigh University. Follow James on Twitter at @DrJamesPeterson