Why conservatives should agree to shutting down the US Commission on Civil Rights
Adam Serwer has a great article up at the American Prospect reflecting on the role being played by the US Commission on Civil Rights in the risible ‘New Black Panther Party’ case that I blogged about a year ago when no one was paying attention. The testimony taken by the Commission on the NBPP case has been thumped by critics of Eric Holder’s Justice Department as proof that Lady Justice has gone black and isn’t coming back as long as President Obama sits in the White House. Of course, the Commission is jammed up with people hostile to the generations of work that the body previously did, having been appointed by President George W. Bush. That means it is not in any way, shape, or form an independent, non-partisan body.
These facts lead Adam to ask a question I’ve been pondering for the past few days – has the Commission outlived its usefulness? He makes this point that I think should really make conservatives who trumpet the Commission’s latest work sit up straight and think:
Still, civil-rights experts concede that the politicization of the commission hardly began during the Bush administration. “The Civil Rights Commission has become extremely politicized over the last 15 years or so,” Greenbaum says. “At one point you had the Democrats that had the numbers, and now you have Republicans that had the numbers.” Indeed, during Berry’s tenure, it was conservatives who complained about being railroaded and left out of the loop on important matters. The irony is that the commission was arguably more effective at its fact-finding duties back in the 1950s, when there were segregationists on it. That may be because back then, regardless of what side you were on, the struggle for civil rights was central to American life. Now, for many Americans, civil-rights issues are a more abstract affair.
It’s nice and all for conservative culture warriors that the Commission is doing the yeoman’s work of the loyal Bushies who once squatted in the Justice Department. But how much longer will that last? For instance, Gerald Reynolds and Ashley Taylor, both Bush appointees in 2004, see their six-year terms end this year. Do you think President Obama is going to appoint anyone nearly palatable to Republicans to replace them? And moreover, when a new Democratic-leaning Commission disavows the earlier findings on NBPP as sound and fury signifying nothing, can they really credibly say that the body’s new findings are any less meaningful than they were when it was dominated by loyal Republicans?
The Justice Department’s New Black Panther Party case may deserve some scrutiny. Probably not, but a little bit of sunlight never hurts. The appropriate venues would be the non-partisan Offices of the Inspector General and Professional Responsibility in the Justice Department. Their findings can then be screamed about by the House Judiciary Committee’s Lamar Smith or the House Oversight Committee’s Darrell Issa, or both.
But the Commission is an extra-governmental entity that’s clearly been captured by our political process, its findings deployed now only for partisan gain. Pretending on the left or on the right that any work it does is useful does a disservice to all Americans concerned with racial equality whether conservative, moderate, or liberal. Shut ‘em down.