COLUMN: Justice in the eyes of Jeffery Beauregard Sessions III
Looking into a man’s past can only show you the path they have taken. Looking at a man’s present will tell you where he wants to go.
Those voting in favor of confirming of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General should not look to where he’s been, but to where he wants to take the rule of law in America.
Even though he has dealt with past claims of racism, Sessions should not be judged on his past. He should be judged on the potential of his radical present.
If confirmed to be attorney general, Sessions would have the power to drastically shape the way the Department of Justice conducts itself in regard to marijuana policy and police misconduct.
As a senator, Sessions has made himself a fierce and vocal opponent to drug decriminalization. According to Politico, in April of 2016, Sessions was quoted as saying, “Good people don't smoke marijuana” and it is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” His vocal opposition and seemingly unchanged stance seems to hint at the fact that he will enforce federal laws that outlaw marijuana, even in states that have since legalized it for recreational use.
This would be a stark change of policy from the Obama administration, where the Justice Department has followed the Cole Memo, a 2013 memo to all federal attorneys urging them not to bring charges against people in states where recreational marijuana was legal. These states have been able to experiment with regulating recreational marijuana, without interference from the federal government. A Sessions DOJ may soon change that.
Sessions’ support of enforcing federal laws may undo decades of victories in the fight to legalize marijuana, and more recently, he may undo the progress made trying to reform police misconduct in urban cities and minority neighborhoods.
President-elect Donald Trump has called this push for police reform and accountability a “war on police.” Sessions agrees with this view. In 2015, the U.S. Senate held a hearing called “The War on Police.” Sessions was a member of the panel. He by no means held back in his disdain for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division saying, “There is a perception, not altogether unjustified, that this department, the Civil Rights Division, goes beyond fair and balanced treatment but has an agenda that's been a troubling issue for a number of years.”
He believes the Civil Rights Division is a hamper to police morale, and that instances of police misconduct are simply results of “bad eggs,” not systemic problems. As attorney general, Sessions would have the power to roll back the DOJ’s efforts and to possibly stop current investigations into police misconduct.
Sessions’ past charges of racism holds danger, but the true dangers of a Sessions DOJ lie in his present claims. These dangers pose a threat to how the state and federal governments share power and pose a threat to destroying years of travail in exposing police brutality. He may take the Department of Justice on a path that many Americans find unacceptable, as should the U.S. Senate in his confirmation vote.