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.

Jeff Sessions, you’re the next contestant on ‘How Racist Are You, Really?’

It’s been two months since Donald Trump shocked the world, pulling off a stunning upset to defeat Hillary Clinton in the electoral vote and claim the presidency.

Since then, he has been cherry picking his cabinet with people he feels are best equipped to execute his agenda.

And the nation has paid close attention. People haven’t cared this much about an assemblage of individuals since the last time NBC replaced its judges on The Voice.

For the most part, people have gone in wanting to hate all of his selections. But unless you spend every day of your life researching politics, the majority of us had never heard of Trump’s selections until they happened.

And when they were announced, we sought immediate validation that they were awful.

Basically, the announcement is made, we read the first article about them we can find, and skim it until we find key words.

“Elected to the Senate in the 1980s … yada yada … served on some committees … don’t care … is anti-immigration … not scandalous enough … was once called a racist! There. There it is. I hate him. BOO TRUMP. BOOOOOO.”

Sessions testifies during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. attorney general

To be fair, a lot of Trump’s selections are controversial. Betsy DeVos, the choice for education commissioner, is a major proponent of charter schools. The selection of Tom Price for Health and Human Services warranted more than 5,000 doctors to sign a petition opposing him.

But there were some good choices, too. General James Mattis for defense secretary. Don Coats as director of intelligence. Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China.

And then there’s Jeff Sessions.

As Trump’s choice for attorney general, he has been by far the most controversial.

Critics point to his 1986 rejection by Congressional Republicans to become a federal judge after accusations that he made racist comments to a colleague. The NAACP recently held a sit-in in his office to voice their disapproval.

His supporters, meanwhile, point to him overseeing the prosecution of a highly publicized hate crime in Alabama — the lynching of a black man by the Klu Klux Klan — while he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in the early ’90s, a case that people say led to the demise of the KKK in Alabama.

However, an excellent article by the Atlantic this week shows that Sessions’s role in the case has been highly overstated.

Sessions’s Senate confirmation hearing began on Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, protesters interrupted the proceedings at times, some dressed in KKK garb.

I think this is the circus we can expect from here on out, and it’s incited by the theatrics of Trump himself. This is the new normal. But when else can you expect when you elect a reality TV star as president?

In short, our government has become a reality show. Hey, it makes for some good blog fodder.

Speaking of which, tomorrow, I plan to have a nice recap on President Obama’s farewell address on Tuesday night, which should be an extremely memorable speech. It’s hard not to appreciate that this essentially marks the conclusion of our first African-American president.

Of course, that could be overshadowed if even bigger news were to pop up over the next 24 hours.

But what can outweigh Obama’s farewell address?!

Oh. This.

Buckle up. it’s not even Jan. 20 yet.