By COLEMAN HOPKINS
This week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation. Holder was in his sixth year at the position and was one of the final two original members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet.
Holder’s legacy contains many high points, such as his refusal to defend The Defense of Marriage Amendment and his strong stance for equal voting rights, but his tenure also had some low points, such as the Fast and Furious scandal and being held in contempt for failing to disclose documents to Congress.
However, the two most egregious faults of Holder were his refusal to prosecute those responsible for the economic meltdown and Great Recession, as well as his indecisiveness in two of America’s most public trials of the 21st century: the Trayvon Martin case and the ongoing issues surrounding the Michael Brown shooting.
The most concerning element about Holder’s term was his unwillingness to take decisive action on problems that his liberal ideologies would have naturally pushed him to act against.
As a liberal, and one of the most prominent liberal members of the president’s cabinet at that, these two instances of serious wrongs are at the heart of Holder’s beliefs: they represent the abuse of capitalism and racial injustice within America. It is the connection that these events had to Holder that make his inaction all the stranger.
In 2008, when the recession occurred, it became obvious that the actions of a select few had caused thousands of people their jobs. Yet, rather than reigning those individuals in and taking them to trial, Holder let those that deserved repercussions for their actions go. While those big banks and individuals should have been prosecuted, he decided not to punish those responsible for the nation’s economic turmoil.
This question was further explored in a New Yorker article by John Cassidy, who attempted to rationalize Holder’s inaction by pointing out that the banks technically did nothing illegal at the time, and that only through hindsight does it look like they committed mass fraud. Cassidy goes on, pointing out that Holder himself used this same defense earlier this year. However, he also points out that in recent years, the U.S. government has found ample evidence to convict those guilty, which makes Holder’s defense neither realistic nor explainable.
Holder’s second biggest offense, by my assessment and others such as the Chicago Times, was Holder’s passive handling of the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown shootings.
Holder was known to publicly speak on personal accounts where police made him feel uncomfortable, showing that he had a unique understanding of the plights that young African American men like Brown and Martin likely dealt with. Moreover, he took it upon himself to sympathize for the victims and often stood at the forefront of these killings. However, Holder chose to stand on the sidelines instead of acting when action was needed most.
Critics have gone as far as to say that he merely used these shootings as a PR stunt, showing significant frustration in the former Attorney General’s passive behavior despite his strong rhetoric.
During his speech at the 51st national convention to the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the largest African-American sorority, Holder was critical of the then-ongoing Zimmerman case. Unfortunately, he refused to do more than speak on the issue, which subsequently drew the ire of many of those in the NAACP who felt Holder was not putting his full weight into the investigation.
To be fair, Holder also did some good during his term as Attorney General, but the bad far outweighs the good when considering all that he left on the table, as well as the errors he made, such as allowing the president to continue with his prosecution of the War on Terror.
It was up to Holder to ensure that justice was served, and in two of the most public instances during his tenure that required him to act, he did the opposite.
It is because of Holder’s failings that it is imperative a proper, more principled and engaging attorney general is selected to replace him, one who will ensure that those responsible for heinous crimes are, at the very least, brought to court.
While Holder was quick to call the US “a nation of cowards,” he was too slow on addressing real issues that required courage to deal with, making his legacy mixed at best. For the potential he had, many Americans, myself included, are left wondering what could have been for Holder.