Civil Rights One Year Later

It is in many ways easy for progressives to decry President Obama’s first year in office as a disappointment, particularly when looking at policy changes or realignments at the Department of Justice.  But before we write off this last year as one of stasis or capitulation let’s give it a good, fair look and maybe try to see beyond the confines of assessing the President’s first year simply on the basis of righting the failures of the Bush administration.

Take the confirmation of Eric Holder Jr., for example.  He has proven to be both a fierce advocate for law enforcement as well as a committed prosecutor of civil rights abuses.  This includes a renewed commitment to a change in DOJ internal culture and renewed (albiet shakey at times) strides towards transparency.  All told it is nice to witness the Department regain its dignity under Attorney General Holder’s leadership. 

It is also hard to argue that civil rights enforcement has not significantly improved under the Obama administration.  Within the span of just one year employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and predatory lending practices all became targets, once again, of the government’s enforcement arm.  We will see the increase in those enforcement actions bear fruit in the coming months and years. For now take heart that for the first time in nearly a decade civil rights matter.

Those are some of the high points.  Now on to some of the low.

Despite the bold executive order issued at the start of his Presidency, so far the steps taken by the administration to address the damage done from torture and interrogation policy have been timid.  That includes ordering that the CIA shut down its secret prisons “as expeditiously as possible.”  The CIA has no business operating prisons and the President should call for their immediate closure.

The Obama administration has also not prohibited all extrajudicial transfers–otherwise known as extraordinary rendition.  Nor has it taken significant steps away from the abusive and unconstitutional practices authorized by the PATRIOT Act.  News continues to come in concerning the use by the FBI of unauthorized and unwarranted domestic spying and the administration has hardly taken a bold stand with regards to lgbt rights.

So as we look back and assess the past year for the administration civil rights activists can mark both victory and defeats in individual battles and individual issues.  But on the whole it is hard to claim that the Obama administration is as tone deaf to matters of constitutional importance and its predecessor, which makes me hopeful for the years still to come.

photo courtesy of Thorne Enterprises via Flickr


Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

We've got a LOT more work to do people!

Steve Gomer
Steve Gomer6 years ago

You need to write the President and congress and tell them forget rolling over the retirement money, you want freedom of Choice as promised in Our Constitution. Not this paltry 2 % returns from insurance annuities. Insurance companies benefit while you lose money every year to inflation.

Steve Gomer
Steve Gomer6 years ago

How abotu this? Annuities Pay a paltry 2 to 3 % intrest, where as , inflation(in normal situations will run about 3.5 to 4.5 % each year. This means when your forced to roll your retirement money over, you will lose money every year to inflation. how wonderful is that? Write Congress and The President and tell them to stick it, you will invest where you can make a real return ,not some paltry 2 % from some insurance company annuity.

Steve Gomer
Steve Gomer6 years ago

You actually have faith in this administrations holding up to the constitution?? what a joke. They have already broken one of the biggest Constitutional amendments we have. The freedom of choice. When they decided to (force) everyone to get health insurance they broke the Freedom of Choice. To further put this Freedom to Death, they will pass a new law,which forces everyone with a 401 k,or other retirement (offered at work) to roll those 401 k's over to an Annuity. Annuities are the absolute worst thing to invest in ever invented. Who do you suppose will benefit from this move? Our Government for one. But also the Insurance companies benefit ,as they are the only ones who write these annuities.So ,you won't have freedom of choice in insurance, and next ,you won't have a choice where you put your retirement money,and insurance companies who already make 40 billion a year, will triple or quadruple that soon.Say good by to Freedom of choice,unless everyone writes to Congress and the president and lets them know we don't want forced insurance, and we don't want forced annuities for retirement. We want our Freedom of Choice back as promised in Our Constitution.

Harold P.
Past Member 6 years ago

Carping at Obama for not cleaning up a mess it took George Bush eight years to create is pure partisan sniping and not interesting. I do have a question, though. If Bush was able to institute U.S. prisons on foreign soil for the expressed purpose of indulging in torture with no more than an executive order, why is it so difficult to dismantle that discrace by the same process? I think the answer to that and a lot of other questions lies somewhere in the labyrinth of the influence of big money in government. Idealistic arguments aside, we just constantly seem to end up doing what appears to be the will of these people.

Raine W.
Raine K.6 years ago

He has done considerable good for everyone considering the racism that is directed at him morning,noon and nite.

Nellie K A.
Nellie K Adaba6 years ago

people should help him instead of looking to him as the Messiah. People say that they had a "Dream" and now "have a Nightmare" in their protests. There's not doing anything to help change the government. They said there and are passive. Obama is compared to a socialist and to this and that because he's trying to do the right thing. In some places he has filled to fulfill his promise - closing town Guantanamo bay, having a better health reform, or changing the immigration reform.... God will have the last word.

Elaine Dixon
Elaine Dixon6 years ago

good post

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann6 years ago

Considering that he has been faced with so much ignorant bigotry and rabid racist opposition President Obama has made a good start. He inherited a gigantic burden of misrule from which it will take ages to recover. Give him time.

James Carpenter
Past Member 6 years ago

* Jan 22, 2010 3:48 AM

I will not blame Mr. Obama for the lose of our civil rights as we (American)have sat back and done nothing except coplain on the most part. Loss of our civil rights started over 40yrs.ago.

Thank you for making my point as well!