In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, it looked as if an alliance of civil rights liberals and conservative libertarians might come together against police militarization, an issue that unites the left and right. So it will be interesting to see how that convergence fares in the wake of news that Attorney General Eric Holder will launch a much broader civil rights probe into the Ferguson police department than initially thought.
The Washington Post scoops:
The investigation, which could be announced as early as Thursday afternoon, will be conducted by the Justice Department’s civil rights division and follow a process similar to that used to investigate complaints of profiling and the use of excessive force in other police departments across the country, the officials said…
The federal officials said the probe will look not only at Ferguson but also at other police departments in St. Louis County. Some, like Ferguson, are predominantly white departments serving majority-African-American communities, and at least one department invited the Justice Department to look at its practices. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending inquiry.
The investigation is in addition to a Justice Department probe into whether Officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots, violated Brown’s civil rights. The new probe will look more broadly at whether the department employed policies and practices that resulted in a pattern of civil rights violations.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Holder is willing to go places on race that President Obama is not, and depending on how this investigation proceeds, it may well stir up another round of conservative anger at Holder and the administration for “racializing” an already-incendiary issue. But how will high profile libertarians like Rand Paul respond to it?
Remember, Senator Paul won praise from civil rights liberals for his reaction to the shooting, in which he argued that it’s time to rein in police militarization, and even pointedly tied the problem to race:
Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them….Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.
Racial disparities in sentencing perhaps perhaps represent a shared target for this left-right alliance. But liberals such as Brian Beutler and Frank Foer have argue that Rand Paul’s response to the shooting, while a step forward, actually demonstrated the limits of the libertarian willingness to connect law enforcement militarization and racial inequality as broadly related problems, and to support a meaningful federal response to “untrammeled local power” when it “stampedes the rights of minorities,” as Foer puts it.
In a fine bit of trolling, the ACLU and Dem Rep. John Conyers, a civil rights figure, have asked whether Paul would join them in supporting a broader federal probe into the civil rights and racial profiling ramifications of the shooting. It’s a good question, now that this probe appears to be happening.
* GOP PLANS CLOSING ARGUMENT ON ECONOMY: Ed O’Keefe reports on a conference call John Boehner held with Republicans:
Boehner said that the House Republican “closing argument” to voters in the coming weeks would focus on economic issues, including reminders of the dozens of measures passed in the last two years — mostly ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate — that would help spur job creation.
Wait, what about Obummercare?
* GOP HOPES TO AVOID GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: Also from Ed O’Keefe’s piece, House Republicans say they’re determined to avoid a government shutdown. However:
But two issues out of lawmakers’ control — whether President Obama plans to make any moves on immigration, or seeks congressional authorization to confront the hard-line Islamist groups dominating parts of northern Iraq and Syria — could upend what House and Senate leaders have been hoping would be a relatively drama-free month. And there’s been concern that the lack of agreement on virtually anything in recent months might lead to another shutdown — especially with fewer than 15 days of legislative work scheduled this month.
Obama may delay his executive action on deportations. But if not, keep an eye on whether Ted Cruz and Steve King demand that something blocking deferred deportations is added to any government funding resolution.
* IN NORTH CAROLINA RACE, A CLASH OF PRIORITIES: Dem Senator Kay Hagan and GOP challenger Thom Tillis met for their first debate last night, and as the News and Record details, the clash of ideologies on display frame the closing stretch of the race. Hagan relentlessly slammed Tillis over education cuts, as part of the ongoing assault on the the hard right turn of the Tillis legislature, while Tillis repeated “Obama” so many times that you’d think he’s Tillis’ real opponent. (Maybe he is?)
The Charlotte Observer has a good rundown of both side’s key claims. Interesting tidbit: Hagan hit Tillis hard over turning down the Medicaid expansion, which again shows the politics of Obamacare are not one-sided.
* TILLIS LECTURES HAGAN: North Carolina Dems have put together a highlight reel of Tillis repeatedly saying that Hagan “doesn’t understand” or “needs to understand” this or that, another sign of just how hard Dems are going after the female vote, which is pivotal to their hopes of holding the Senate.
* MEDICARE AN ISSUE IN MANY SENATE RACES: The DSCC is up with a multi-million-dollar buy behind this ad hitting Alaska GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan for supporting cuts to Medicare benefits, a reference to his support for repeal of Obamacare, which would nix benefits for those who fall into the Medicare “donut hole.”
Dems are attacking Republicans over entitlement cuts in several key Senate races, a tactic that worked in races in 2012, too.
* KEEP AN EYE ON KANSAS SENATE RACE: The Dem candidate in the Kansas Senate race has dropped out, meaning independent Greg Orman has a real shot at defeating Republican Senator Pat Roberts. The First Read crew coomments (no link yet):
Why is this such a big deal? Because this puts a third Republican seat (after Kentucky and Georgia) in play. And if Orman wins and caucuses with Democrats, that means that Republicans would have to win an EXTRA seat to net the six Senate pickups to win a majority.
Orman has not said which party he’d caucus with. But Sam Wang explains why he might caucus with Dems.
* AND McCONNELL STRUGGLES WITH MINIMUM WAGE: Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign releases a new web video showing Mitch McConnell telling a Koch donor enclave that a GOP Senate wouldn’t ever debate a minimum wage hike, and then clarifying to reporters that he didn’t mean it: “There are circumstances under which, if you have a better economy, that raising the minimum wage might make sense.”
A recent poll showed 55 percent of Kentuckians favor a minimum wage hike. No word on whether they think that should only happen at some unspecified point when McConnell would agree the economy permits it.