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“Run That By Me Again?”: Sessions Claims Credibility On Hispanic, African-American Voters

Back in February, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did something no other senator was willing to do at the time: the Alabama Republican endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And now that the New York Republican is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sessions is helping lead the charge, urging others in the GOP to get in line.

The senator told Politico, in reference to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) skepticism, “[O]n some of these issues, Trump is where the Republicans are and if you’re going to be a Republican leader you should be supportive of that.”

And what about those in the party who believe Trump will struggle to win in November? Sessions told the far-right Daily Caller that those doubters don’t fully appreciate the breadth of Trump’s appeal.

[Sessions] is predicting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will attract black and Hispanic voters in the general election.

“Donald Trump is going to do better with Hispanics and African Americans, I am convinced, because he’s talking about things that will really make their wages go up,” Sessions said during a recent interview in his Capitol Hill office with The Daily Caller.

The senator didn’t specify what “better” might entail – he presumably meant stronger support than Mitt Romney received in 2012 – but it almost certainly doesn’t matter. By basing so much of his campaign on racial animus, Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to alienate voters from minority communities.

Romney won 27% of the Latino vote four years ago and 6% of the African-American vote. There is very little evidence to suggest Trump will “do better” than this performance in the fall.

But what struck me as especially interesting about this wasn’t just the message, but also the messenger.

As we discussed earlier in the year, the New Republic published a piece in 2002 on Sessions’ background, which included a stint as a U.S. Attorney, when his most notable prosecution targeted three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

The piece added that Sessions, during his career in Alabama, called the NAACP “un-American” because, among other groups, it “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance in which he referred to a white attorney as a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but he claimed to have been joking.

What’s more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he “used to think they [the Klan] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.” Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him “boy,” and once warned him to “be careful what you say to white folks.”

When the Reagan administration nominated Sessions for the federal bench in 1986, the Senate rejected him because of his controversial record on race.

But in 2016, Jeff Sessions is so “convinced” he has his finger on the pulse of the electorate that he’s willing to predict increased Hispanic and African-American support for the controversial Republican nominee.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Donald Trump, Hispanics, Jeff Sessions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump Is Empowering Extremists In Congress”: His Campaign Will Do Damage Even If He Loses In A Landslide

Every once in a while, I have to remind folks of some basic facts about Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. This is one of those times.

In 1986 (otherwise known as the year of Iran-Contra), President Ronald Reagan nominated Beauregard the Third to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. During the Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination, it became clear that Sessions suffered from a common conservative fear: namely, mouth-rape.

Like so many of his Republican brethren, Sessions was terrified of having things “rammed down his throat” by the NAACP, ACLU, or some “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” guy who might decide to attack his home with a small arsenal.

When it became clear that Jefferson Beauregard the Third was not only named for the president of the Confederacy and one its more effective generals, but actually held the same beliefs in common with those two gentlemen, the Judiciary Committee declined to send his nomination to the floor. Alabama Senator Howell Heflin decided that Sessions was simply too racist to serve on the bench in Alabama, and so Reagan had to go back to the drawing board.

Of course, Sessions got his revenge by getting elected to the same Senate that had rejected him as a judge and then winning an appointment to the same Judiciary Committee that had declined to send his nomination to the floor. Keeping Alabama racism at bay is like trying to drown a cork, and Sessions soon defined himself as one of the most extreme and intemperate opponents of Latino immigration in this country’s power structure. He was also the first U.S. Senator to endorse Donald Trump, and that’s now paying dividends.

In the Senate, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) may not have been a backbencher, but his extreme positions on immigration relegated him to the fringe of his party during the 2013 immigration debate when many Republicans came out publicly in support of giving immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S. legally if not a path to citizenship. After the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report outlined the need to make inroads with Hispanic voters, Sessions’ positions were seen as a relic of the past. Now, he is smack dab in the middle of the Trump campaign…

…”He’s right now the congressional guy most connected to the campaign so right now if there is any question about anything we want to raise with the campaign, he’d probably be the guy you’d want to go through,” says Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the GOP leadership team.

Something similar has happened over on the House side, where Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee have seen their profile and influence rise substantially as a result of their early endorsements of Trump.

Barletta rose to prominence as the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he enacted a series of local ordinances that were so anti-immigrant that they were ultimately ruled unconstitutional. His reward was a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Party of Lincoln.

Scott DesJarlais was recently dubbed “America’s worst congressman” by the National Review, and for once the Review had a good point.

In 2014, [DesJarlais] won his primary election by 38 votes after reports surfaced that DesJarlais, a doctor, “had sexual relationships with two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative.” It was reported that in one instance the anti-abortion advocate had encouraged one of the women he’d had a brief affair with to have an abortion.

I know that winning by 38 votes is not a lot, but is there anything a Republican can do besides agree to pay our bills on time that will get them beaten in a primary?

In any case, DesJarlais is no longer the House Republicans’ biggest embarrassment:

As establishment Republicans in Washington come around to a bombastic Trump, DesJarlais has emerged as a liaison between skeptics, the media and the Trump campaign, massaging fears that Trump is a loose cannon with promises that Trump is more reserved and thoughtful behind the scenes.

DesJarlais says he helped organize a meeting between the Freedom Caucus board and Trump’s campaign operative Paul Manafort last week. And before Trump met with House Speaker Paul Ryan last month, DesJarlais was one of a handful of members who sat down with the speaker and encouraged Ryan to unite behind the nominee.

As for Barletta, Talking Points Memo reports that he “now spends more time in the middle of the action and has sent his policy ideas over to Trump on immigration.”

If history is our guide, those ideas on immigration policy are probably unconstitutional.

So, we begin to see something take form, which is how the rise of Trump will change the Republican Party by empowering some of its worst people.

In this way, Trump’s campaign will do damage to our country even if he loses in a landslide.

And that’s not even considering what it will do to your neighbors who find ways to excuse Trump’s moral lapses and hate-baiting, thereby losing a tight grip on their moral compasses.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Knuckles Are Dragging Again”: The GOP Follows Sen. Sessions—Backward

If you want to see where the impulse to reform the Republican Party in a more libertarian direction of limited government, social tolerance, and free markets goes to die, look no further than the recent attacks on immigration and freer trade by Jeff Sessions, the influential senator from Alabama. Every time the GOP seems finally ready to orient itself in a forward-looking, post-culture-war direction, some holdover from an America that never quite existed to begin with blows his whistle and the next generation of would-be party leaders fall into line like the obedient von Trapp children in Sound of Music.

Indeed, Scott Walker has explicitly attributed his remarkable flip-flop on immigration to conversations with Sessions. Just a few years ago, the Wisconsin governor and leading Republican presidential candidate used to favor liberal immigration and a path to citizenship for illegals. Now he’s calling for “no amnesty” and universal, invasive, and error-prone E-Verify systems for “every employer…particularly small businesses and farmers and ranchers.”

The three-term, 68-year-old Sessions is “the Senate’s anti-immigration warrior,” according to Politico, and he wants to curb not just illegal and low-skill immigration but also the number of folks chasing the American Dream under H1-B visas, which apply to “workers in short supply” who are sponsored by specific employers with specialized needs.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Sessions complained  that “legal immigration is the primary source of low-wage immigration into the United States.” Exhibiting the zero-sum, fixed-pie economic thinking that conservatives and Republicans routinely chastise in liberals and Democrats, Sessions continues, “We don’t have enough jobs for our lower-skilled workers now. What sense does it make to bring in millions more?”

His solution is a time out on foreigners, “so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.” Only “the financial elite (and the political elite who receive their contributions)” could possibly object, argues Sessions in full populist mode. Immigrants keep “wages down and profits up….That is why [elites] have tried to enforce silence in the face of public desire for immigration reductions.”

Sessions brings the same populist and anti-immigrant animus to his critique of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade deal the Obama administration is brokering between the United States and 11 other countries. Sessions, along with progressive Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Martin O’Malley, only see the shadowy machinations of elites at work in the reauthorization of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or “fast-track” negotiations.

Such rules, which have been standard operating procedure since 1974, allow the executive branch to negotiate terms and then bring the deal to Congress for an up or down vote. Citing “the rapid pace of immigration and globalization,” Sessions wants not “a ‘fast-track’ but a regular track.” He, Warren, and others charge that negotiations under TPA are “secret” and are somehow selling out basic American “sovereignty”—despite the fact that any deal will be voted on by Congress.

Sessions will lose the vote against TPA, just as the Republicans will ultimately lose the battle over restricting immigration. Contra Sessions, there is no clear public desire for reducing immigration, except among Republicans. Fully 84 percent of Republicans are dissatisfied with the current generous levels, a super-majority that only shows how out of touch the GOP faithful is with the rest of the country. Earlier this year, Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans are either satisfied with current levels of immigration or want more immigration. Just 39 percent were dissatisfied and want less immigration, which is 11 points lower than the same figure in 2008.

The majority of Americans embrace immigration for a lot of different reasons. Part of it is our history and sense of national identity and part of it is a basic if unarticulated recognition of what economists on the right and left have consistently found: “On average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans.”

Leave aside the fact that immigrants are twice as likely to start their own businesses as native-born Americans. The fact is they tend to be either higher- or lower-skilled than the typical worker, so they complement rather than displace natives. And, as the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh documents in his exhaustive rebuttal to Sessions’s Washington Post piece, immigrants not only consume less welfare and commit less crime than the average American, they pay taxes (often without any hope of getting the money back) and stop coming when the economy sours. If you think immigrants cause problems, check out the parts of the country that nobody is moving to and you’ll understand that it’s precisely when migrants stop coming that your real troubles are starting.

Sadly, lived reality holds little appeal for Sessions and Republicans such as Walker, who are instead doing their damnedest to turn the party of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush decisively against its long and glorious history of relatively open borders and freer trade. In a remarkable 1980 debate between Reagan and Bush I, the two candidates for the GOP nomination literally outdid themselves not simply in praising legal immigrants but illegal ones: https://youtu.be/Ixi9_cciy8w.

In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney pulled just 27 percent of the increasingly important Hispanic vote. That was despite the fact that Barack Obama is, in Nowrasteh’s accurate term, “Deporter in Chief” who repatriated more immigrants far more quickly than George W. Bush. Hispanics aren’t stupid—44 percent of them voted for immigrant-friendly Bush in 2004. They knew things could always get worse and probably would for them under Romney.

With 2016 coming into clearer and clearer focus—and with Hillary Clinton doing her own flip-flop on immigration and now embracing newcomers—the GOP and its presidential candidates have a choice to make. They can follow Ronald Reagan’s example and embrace libertarian positions on immigration and free trade. Or they can follow Jeff Sessions’s retrograde populism and see just how few Hispanic votes they can pull.

 

By: Nick Gillespie, The Daily Beast, May 12, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Immigration, Jeff Sessions, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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