Conservative media spent the last few days roasting Attorney General Loretta Lynch for comments she made at a dinner Thursday night with the Muslim Advocates, a legal organization that advocates for the rights of Muslim Americans nationwide. Because anytime you can overreact to the nation’s top law enforcement officer promising to prosecute hate crimes against a tiny minority of your countrymen, you have to do it.
Lynch’s appearance had been scheduled months ago, but it took on a particular urgency in the wake of both the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 and the massacre in San Bernardino carried out by a radicalized Muslim husband-and-wife team last Wednesday. Speaking to a notable spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric after the recent events, Lynch said,
“The fear that you have just mentioned is in fact my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people, which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence. My message to not just the Muslim community but to the entire American community is: we cannot give in to the fear that these backlashes are really based on."
According to Politico, Lynch also “touted the Justice Department's work investigating anti-Muslim hate crimes and advocating for Muslim communities whose efforts to build or expand mosques have been stymied by local opposition.” This is all fairly expected stuff for an AG to tell a minority American population that has been maligned and abused for years over the actions of a few motivated radicals, and the resulting unhinged blubbering of the more paranoid, revanchist members of the majority. Particularly when said paranoids have taken over one of our nation’s only two major political party.
What’s obvious when you read her comments in context is that Lynch was talking about prosecuting committers of hate crimes themselves, not the jerks whose hateful rhetoric might inspire the crimes in the first place. For one thing, such cases are notoriously hard to prosecute thanks to the freedom of speech afforded by the First Amendment. For another, if such cases were easy, almost everyone on AM radio would have been tossed in the pokey a couple of decades ago.
But if you listen to the right-wing media, you’d have thought Lynch announced she would put anyone whose angry anti-Muslim rhetoric results in a hate crime into a FEMA-run re-education camp. Because there is no occurrence that conservatives cannot twist until they are its biggest victims. Nor is there any event too small to keep even the biggest has-beens on the right from rushing to their keyboards to puff their chests out and impress us all with their macho posturing.
A special shout-out goes to George Pataki, who is literally a bleached cow skull on a fencepost running for president, who found the most cynical way possible to garner attention in the crowded Republican presidential field.
This is sure to catapult you all the way up to 1 percent in the polls, Governor. A few dozen more like that and your polling numbers might edge out of rounding-error territory.
Whenever Republicans bemoan the rise of Donald Trump, I want to point them to this outrage-spewing right-wing media complex that they have spent 40 years building, nurturing, and mining for voters. This is yet one more manifestation of the ugly strain of white supremacy embedded in the nation’s founding, as well as the perception that that supremacy has faded, which the GOP has exploited to gain power.
An African-American attorney general working for the nation’s first African-American president telling a non-white minority that she will uphold laws that, theoretically, apply to all Americans should be a moment of pride for everyone. It is an effort by good people to try and live up to the promises of equality in the founding documents that this country has failed to live up to time and time and time again. Instead, it gets cheapened and spat on by charlatans who are either too dumb to understand context or too cynical to admit that they do. (I know which one I’d bet on.)
This would all be fine if we were talking about the fringe of the GOP. But while George Pataki might be polling so low that he could drop out of the race and hardly anyone would even notice, the idea animating his tweet is to get himself some attention from the nativist balls of seething anger that have kept Donald Trump aloft for almost six months. It would be nice if there was a counterweight to this xenophobia in the Republican ranks that was doing well in the polls or taking over the ranks in Congress or state legislatures, because at least it would offer some hope that we’ll have a functional two-party system again one day. But that day, as it has for some time, seems to be getting farther and farther away.