[Blogger having major problems today -- what's going on? Did someone over there just get wind of the May Day boycotts and say, "hey, I want in on the action?"]
Since John Ashcroft took his crusade against breasts into the Department of Justice in 2000, the agency has been long criticized about its actions -- or lack of actions -- on voting rights. As the Institute (pdf) and others have found, Ashcroft's DOJ began a Bush-era reversal of 35 years of advocacy for disenfranchised voters, shifting the agency's focus to cracking down on supposed "fraud" while ignoring widespread violations of the right to vote.
That trend came to its apex this week, when the Justice Department announced that it would be using the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prosecute a black activist in Mississippi for supposedly not being nice to white people. It's worth quoting the Associated Press story at length, which shows the case is as ridiculous as it sounds:
For the first time, the U.S. Justice Department is using the 1965 law to allege racial discrimination against whites.
Brown, head of the Democratic Party in Mississippi's rural Noxubee County, is accused of waging a campaign to defeat white voters and candidates with tactics including intimidation and coercion. [...]
Brown shakes off the allegations.
"They've been trying to target me for years, the attorney general and all them, because we're so successful," the 52-year-old says. "Hey, if you're a failure, nobody will mess with you. But we're successful in east Mississippi."
The Justice Department complaint says Brown and those working with him "participated in numerous racial appeals during primary and general campaigns and have criticized black citizens for supporting white candidates and for forming biracial political coalitions with white candidates." [...]
"The main concern we have in the civil rights community isn't necessarily that that DOJ brought this case," Greenbaum says. "It's that the department is not bringing meritorious cases on behalf of African-American and Native American voters."
Justice Department records show the department's last voting-rights case alleging discrimination against black voters was filed in 2001. Since then, six cases have been brought on behalf of voters of Hispanic or Asian descent in five states _ plus the case involving white voters in Mississippi.
And if you were wondering whether the DOJ actually had a case, here's what they've got:
"This case is real simple," Brown says. "Find me one white person that was discriminated against."
The main white person who makes the claim is Ricky Walker, the county prosecuting attorney who believes Brown recruited an opponent for him simply because he's white, an action Walker called "racist."
Walker says that when he qualified to run again in 2003, Brown brought in a black lawyer from another part of the state to run against him. A circuit judge found that the lawyer, Winston James Thompson III, had not established residency, and Thompson was not allowed on the ballot.
One angry white guy is the "main" pillar of the DOJ's case? This guy's feelings are somehow more substantial than, say, whole-scale redistricting of states to benefit one party, draconian felon disenfranchisement laws which bar over four million from voting, and persistent acts of intimidation and suppression -- all issues DOJ has either ignored or been on the wrong side of?
The Department of Justice under the Bush administration has given up all pretense of being advocate for, or at least protector of, civil rights. Indeed, they are proving to be one of the greatest obstacles to enforcing the rule the laws of democracy.