National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

To Be Equal #13
April 1, 2021
Vanita Gupta And Kristen Clarke Are The Nation’s Greatest Hope For Real Reform Within The Justice Department

Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League

“We are concerned with what seems like foot-dragging and an effort to slow down the confirmation process of eminently qualified individuals and the fact that these nominees are women, people of color, sons or daughters of immigrants. There seems to be a pattern that is very troubling. It seems like this treatment is a double standard because we’re seeing that historically other administrations have been able to move much more quickly.” – Unidos US President and CEO Janet Murguía

Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for Associate Attorney General, and Kristen Clarke, his nominee to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, are two of the most highly-qualified, experienced, and principled civil rights attorneys in the nation.

As I said when their nominations were announced, “It is the nomination of my esteemed sisters in the civil rights movement — Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke – that gives the nation its greatest hope for real reform within the Justice Department. They both have spent their entire careers fighting for racial justice. President-elect Biden could not have made a better choice to fill these vital roles.”

They will lead the fight against racially-motivated voter suppression, defend the nation against white supremacist terrorism, and reinvigorate the Justice Department’s commitment to racial and social justice.

That’s precisely why they are the target of a shockingly dishonest, racist, and misogynistic smear campaign intended to derail their confirmation by the Senate.

“If the GOP’s strategy is to try to restrict voting rights as much as possible, then delaying these two nominees from taking office is totally consistent with that,” Gerry Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center said. “That’s what’s likely motivating the opposition.”

Gupta has been endorsed by half a dozen leading law enforcement organizations including the National Fraternal Order of Police, whose president said of Gupta, “… her open and candid approach has created a working relationship that is grounded in mutual respect and understanding.”

Yet the ironically-named Honest Elections Project, a dark-money voter suppression group, ran a wildly dishonest ad regarding her relationship with law enforcement. A Washington Post editorial called the ad “mainly notable for the magnitude of the lies and distortions it crams into 30 seconds.”

Clarke spent much of her career defending the religious rights of Jews. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee of her “deep and unambiguous personal commitment to justice for all, including her steadfast support in the fight against antisemitism.”

That hasn’t stopped voting rights opponents from attempting to tar her with the work of a controversial author whose only connection to Clark is that the Harvard Black Students Association, which she led as a 19-year-old undergrad, accepted his offer to speak on campus nearly three decades ago. She recently apologized, saying the author should not have been given a platform to share his racist views.

Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation pointed out: the smear campaigns are part of a long-game effort to “delegitimize the quest for social and racial justice and accuse anybody who strives for equality under the law to be harboring anti-white (which to them means ‘anti-American’) views.”

The facts are clear. The eminently qualified nominees Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke must be confirmed immediately so the nation can begin the process of restoring faith in the rule of law and defeat the wave of racially-motivated voter suppression efforts that arose in response to record Black turnout in the 2020 election.

As Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island wrote, “I get it. If I were a right-wing special interest group, the last thing I would want is these two experienced lawyers wielding the power of the Justice Department to defend voting rights. But for everybody else, these women are two appointments to applaud.”

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