Today, GOP senators will grill Judge Sonia Sotomayor in an effort to derail her ascent to a position on the Supreme Court of the United State. One of the most fervent challengers will be junior Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, whose full name, it must be mentioned, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III-- sounds like a Confederate general. The comparison is apt, particularly when one takes into account past statements he has made and contemplates his hometown of Selma, which was home to Black Belt plantations and slave labor during the Antebellum period.
In a spirit of fairness, I wanted to include a few eyebrow-raising quotes that Senator Sessions has said in his long career of public service.
Here, a lengthy passage quoted directly from The New Republic. By way of another source, the article in full is posted here.
As a native Alabamian, I have watched Sessions' rise from self-aggrandizing and sanctimonious prosecuting attorney to the United States Senate with a great degree of horror. His appointment to a Federal judgeship in 1986 was shot down due to a history of racially insensitive statements and other offensive remarks attributed to him over the years. When the consummate Good Old Boy, Howell Heflin, retired as senator, Sessions narrowly rode the Republican Revolution wave to victory over another good old boy with a long history in Alabama politics. Yet, he is seen as overwhelmingly popular in Alabama, largely as a result of his reliance on working class whites who find something courageous about his grandstanding about the evils of liberal activism, illegal immigration, and anti-environmentalism.
Taking into account the fact that Sessions rose to a position of authority as a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee within the Senate's GOP caucus, one realizes that the Republican party has truly become a gathering that includes only the conservative right and is increasingly based in the southern states alone. The region's still-considerable poverty make it difficult for more than one party to make serious inroads and from the time of The New Deal to 1994, the region was solidly Democratic, though, it must be noted, it was largely full of conservative Democrats. Breaking the GOP stranglehold over the south would require something massive like wealth redistribution, an influx of residents from other parts of the country, or a phenomenally successful educational program that granted people the ability to easily attain some sense of social mobility otherwise denied to them. The region has never truly known democracy. Even back in the times before the Civil War, the classes were strictly stratified based on income. A small planter elite, which much of the country assumes was the norm based on romantic notions advanced in literature and movies, owned large parcels of land, kept slaves, and racked in money. They also, I might add, made money from northern industrial companies, making them very complicit in the peculiar institution of slavery, but that's another ball of wax for another time. Most whites were poor subsistence farmers (of which I am descended on both sides of my family) who had nothing in the way of means and could barely afford to feed themselves, much less make a profit. At the bottom, of course, were black slaves, who were seen as livestock.
I included this background information to try to explain Jeff Sessions and those who continue to vote for him, time after time. If it were a simple matter of ignorance, that would be one thing, but Sessions has learned that the way to stay in office is to play to the worst fears of his supporters and try to seem like some courageous crusader for a way of life presumed to be under attack from all sides. This motivates him from a political standpoint in his queries during deliberation today and in the days ahead. Though I can say I dislike Sessions strongly, I do at least understand where he is coming from, too.