O Brother, Where Art Thou Civil Liberties?

Some of President Obama’s most well-known accomplishments are also his most controversial. At least depending on who you ask.

To Democrats, the Affordable Care Act is a historic leap forward towards universal health care, and a saving grace for the sick and the poor.

To Republicans, the Affordable Care Act is the American version of the Final Solution.

Then there’s the Iran nuclear deal. From one perspective, the years-long negotiations represent an unprecedented diplomatic effort to curb a global threat while avoiding violent confrontation.

Donald Trump called it “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

This is the case with every president there’s ever been. At the time, people on both sides of the ideological aisle view everything through completely different lenses, and thus have varying opinions. Even Abraham Lincoln was heavily derided during his presidency.

It’s also why it takes decades to determine a president’s legacy. Because that is when we will have the appropriate data available to analyze the tangible consequences and ramifications that resulted from their actions.

So while we can certainly laud the manner and conduct in which Obama handled himself during his eight years in his office, and how well he represented our country on a global stage, any firm declarations of Obama’s presidential legacy from a legislative perspective are highly premature.

That all being said, if there’s one thing Obama tried to do that we can assess right now, it was his attempt to protect the civil liberties of all Americans.

Sessions

Ensuring civil liberties has a been more than a century-old quest for America. It was almost exactly 100 years after Lincoln freed the slaves when the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to pass the Civil Rights and Act and the Voting Rights Act to guarantee that black people enjoyed the same privileges as white people under the law.

100 years.

Progress in America has always been met with instant resistance. The slaves are freed? OK, here are the Jim Crow laws. Blacks can vote? OK, but here’s a poll tax.

Even this very decade, the Supreme Court nullified parts of the Voting Rights Act, lifting a clause that prevented southern states with a history of racial discrimination from passing restrictive voter laws. Shortly after, these states began passing strict voter ID laws, which disproportionately affects black voters.

Under Obama, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division spent significant time devoted towards investigating police departments in cities that faced severe racial unrest, like in Chicago, Baltimore and Ferguson, and determined that they employed a culture of systematic discrimination.

Following these studies, the department worked with the cities on plans for reform.

And now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who has a long history of disregarding civil rights – the Justice Department has asked for a review of federal agreements with these law enforcement agencies, signaling that it may seek to reverse many, if not all, of the decrees made by Obama’s justice department.

This is as clear of a signal that we have seen that this administration is indifferent towards protecting our nation’s most vulnerable and historically disenfranchised citizens.

The political news since Trump took office has been a mess. There’s so much noise coming from all directions, and it’s easy – and understandable – to remain willfully ignorant and just ignore all that’s happening. And I honestly don’t blame anyone for that. Life is complicated already without outside interference.

But this is the reality of what is actually happening. Real people are being impacted, and the strides we’ve made as nation for more than a century are being roadblocked.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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