Opinion writer

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

“I’m going to be tough. I’m going to be strong. And I’m going to forcefully oppose any person or any organization that wants to undermine our democracy.”

Eric H. Holder Jr. got into some hot water when he said, “When they go low, we kick ’em” at an event in Georgia on Oct. 7. Moments after saying that, he added, “When I say we, you know, ‘We kick ‘em,’ I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate. We don’t do anything illegal.” But the earlier remark took on a life of its own. Two weeks later, in a return visit to the podcast, Holder branded the reaction as “fake outrage by Republicans.” (Disclosure: Holder officiated my wedding.)

“It’s really kind of amazing to hear Republicans talk about we need more civility in our politics,” the former attorney general under President Barack Obama said in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “We have to be mindful of what Republicans are doing whether you look at what’s going on in North Dakota, what’s going on in Georgia,” Holder told me. “[We] have to fight them in every way that we can.”

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Holder is the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an effort that just got off the ground when he was a guest during a live recording of the podcast in February. “We’re only trying to have a fair process,” he said. But why should folks believe him when “Democratic” is in the organization’s name? “I want people to understand this. This is not an attempt to gerrymander for Democrats,” Holder pushed back. “This is a partisan attempt at good government. We want to have a fair process come 2021.”

Holder believes the nonpartisan, independent commissions that draw the political boundaries in California and Arizona should be adopted by all states. “In too many places now you have a situation where politicians are picking their voters, instead of citizens choosing their representatives,” Holder said.

We talked about voter suppression efforts in Georgia. That Brian Kemp, the Republican gubernatorial candidate against Democrat Stacey Abrams, continues as the secretary of state overseeing the election is an affront to fairness. “That’s like LeBron James being in a game for the Lakers and saying, ‘I not only want to wear No. 23 and be a player for the Lakers, I also want to wear a referee’s jersey, and I want to make sure that I call fouls and make determinations about the conduct of the game while I’m still a player.”


Eric H. Holder Jr., former attorney general and chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, speaks with The Post’s Jonathan Capehart during an interview for the “Cape Up” podcast on Oct. 22. (Carol Alderman/The Washington Post)

The gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013 made what’s happening in Georgia and elsewhere possible. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. argued that since the enactment of the landmark law in 1965 until its reauthorization in 2006, much had changed. “During that time, largely because of the Voting Rights Act, voting tests were abolished, disparities in voter registration and turnout due to race were erased, and African-Americans attained political office in record numbers,” Roberts wrote. “And yet the coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs.”

“I’d like to speak to the five members of the court who gutted the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County decision and ask them, ‘What do you think now?,” Holder told me when I asked him about the impact of that decision on what’s happening today. “I mean, ‘What do you really think now?’ on the basis of what you’ve seen happen in a variety of states inconsistent with what you said, Mr. Chief Justice.”

Listen to the podcast to hear Holder talk about the administration’s woefully reaction to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Post’s Global Opinions section. Holder also talks about the activism of the Parkland kids and whether he’s going to run for president. Spoiler alert: He’s focused on Election Day 2018, right now. But that led me back to his opinion that Democrats needed to be tough.

When I asked Holder if he agreed with Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’s lawyer and all-but-certain candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020, that Democrats need not be afraid of fighting Trump, he said yes.

“We have to take on this president. We have to take on this Republican Party. We have to be proud to be Democrats. We need to be forceful in advancing these great Democratic ideas we have to serve the people,” Holder said. “Democrats were and still are and will continue to be the party of the common man, the common woman. There shouldn’t be any half-steps about this. There shouldn’t be any half-steps about this.”

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