In the wake of Tuesday night's hope-crushing defeat of House candidate Jon Ossoff in Georgia's special congressional runoff election, the Democratic Party is once again casting about for the ideal political archetype in this fallen, Trumpified world of ours. As fate would have it, Yahoo News floated a suggestion just hours before Ossoff's rebuke: "Eric Holder joins the anti-Trump resistance — and mulls a presidential campaign of his own." From the article:
"Up to now, I have been more behind-the-scenes," Holder told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview about his plans. "But that's about to change. I have a certain status as the former attorney general. A certain familiarity as the first African-American attorney general. There's a justified perception that I'm close to President Obama. So I want to use whatever skills I have, whatever notoriety I have, to be effective in opposing things that are, at the end of the day, just bad for the country.[…]
"If opposition is to be the course—and it must be—we must recognize and remember that the power of the American people has been too often underestimated. Once roused we are a mighty force."
Feeling the Holder yet?
About the best thing you can say about Barack Obama's longtime attorney general and self-described "wingman" is that he's not Jeff Sessions, and that in the final two years of his tenure he started taking tentative steps in the direction of long-overdue criminal justice reform (this after four years of cracking down hard on medical marijuana, among other unwoke practices). But as flawed as Holder is, he slots almost uncannily well into the odd and off-putting place the modern Democratic Party finds itself in, as the two-party pendulum swings away from Trumpism yet with little noticeable enthusiasm for the fast-approaching #resistance fighters on the left.
In how many ways is Eric Holder the ideal candidate for the Democratic Party, if not the rest of America? I count at least three:
1) He's intolerant of Republicans. Forget Hillary Clinton's half-hearted "basket of deplorables," which after all only accounted for "half of Trump's supporters" (and for which she later issued a tepid regret)—Holder has suggested just flat banning Republicans from respectable venues of discourse.
Three days after the election, the federal government's former chief law enforcement officer was the lead guest on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, and beginning at about 5:40 in this clip went on a remarkable tear against Maher's tendency to invite onto his program Republicans such as Rep. Darrell Issa:
Holder: The one thing I didn't like about your show, given all the crap I had to deal with him, I had to watch your show and then see him up here, you know.
Maher: Well, you know…
Holder: Ban him!
Maher: Uh, no, that's—we can't do it that way. Come on. We have to come together, we have to listen to both sides.
Holder: Not in this new world we have. We push our side!
"We push our side" fits snugly into the post-Ossoff lefty punditry just flat writing off Republicans as irredeemable. "This not a failure of Democrats," as one wrote, "but toxic, vindictive voters willing to elect hateful bigots." Republicans don't need tough love, they need tougher hate. Send Eric!
2) He's a Deep Stater. In an era where former CIA/Goldman Sachs employee Evan McMullin is getting thunderous liberal ovations (except when suggesting that maybe the authoritarian tendencies of this presidency are cause to at least question the size and scope of government), and where Vox is running headlines such as "The FBI is America's best hope against Trump," what better candidate than a guy who spent 12 years in the Justice Department, five years as a Superior Court judge, four years as U.S. Attorney, and four years as deputy attorney general, before elevating to Justice Department's top slot (with some hot Wall Street action on the side)? We need authority to rid ourselves of authoritarianism, people!
Holder has the kind of record that would be routinely portrayed as problematic if attached to the letter R. As Nick Gillespie pointed out in 2013, not only did the then-A.G. "sign off on the search warrant for Fox News's James Rosen's personal emails, he is at the center of questions over the state's broad surveillance of the AP, an operation that has raised hackles across the political spectrum regarding First Amendment issues and civil-liberties concerns." But hey, that was back before the nation slipped into true darkness. Speaking of which…
3) He's a hypocrite about the attorney general's independence from the presidency. The same man who while still in office referred to Barack Obama as "my boy" is now furrowing his brow about (in this Buffalo News paraphrase) "whether current Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be able to put aside a political relationship with President Trump and work with some independence from him." Do tell.
Holder, lest we forget, was officially held in contempt by Congress (including by 17 Democrats) for refusing to divulge documents to an oversight committee looking into the Fast and Furious scandal. As attorney generals tend to do, he performed the liver function in the body of the Obama administration, filtering out whatever toxic Republican accusations were thrown its way. (Hence his particular ire for Issa, who was always poking around Holder's business via oversight committees.)
In the political spot-changing season that comes every time the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania switch hands, Capitol Hill anxiety about the A.G.'s independence from POTUS has gone from a fringe Democratic opinion to an urgent national priority. When Obama's wingman left office, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) gushed, "I hate to see Eric Holder leave….I've been here throughout with a lot of attorneys general. Nobody's done it better than he has." Leahy was considerably less hospitable to the arrival of Jeff Sessions:
I am concerned that the independence of the Justice Department will be in jeopardy under this administration. It is already clear that the cost of saying "no" to the president is your job. Now more than ever, we need an Attorney General willing to pay that cost. I am not convinced that describes Senator Sessions. Throughout his nomination, he has not demonstrated the independence that he himself once demanded of nominees.
Eric Holder dutifully hates the Electoral College. He thinks Trumpism represents "the worst of us." He has greased the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street as well as anybody. He may just be the perfect 2017 Democrat.
"[P]lease let this 'Eric Holder for 2020' thing actually be real," Stephen A. Crockett Jr. prayed over at The Root. After all, nothing says #resistance like getting behind the former chief prosecutor in all the land. "Whatever he decides his new role would be," wrote Essence's Malaika Jabali, "Holder's legal expertise and public platform defending civil rights are sorely needed now, as the President has become intent on undoing practically all of the progressive gains of Obama's administration."