Jeff Sessions, Attorney General and acting director of a Confederacy 2.0 Pre-enactment Society, has rarely made it obvious how far backwards he wants to take this country. I mean, it is obvious that in terms of criminal justice (which is to say, the mark of a civilized society), he wants to take it really far backwards. But how far back? And where? Is it 1960 Birmingham? 1840 Mississippi? 1970s New York? King Leopold’s Congo? England at the height of Social Darwinism?
How about all of the above, like a smoothie of racism and authoritarianism. He made it clear over the weekend that he intends to reinvigorate the “War on Drugs” that led to overwhelming incarceration rates, massive violence, and generations of black families torn apart (and which did literally nothing to wean this country off its overwhelming need for intoxicating substances).
This “war” melded domestically with the War on Terror, mingling to create hyper-militarized police forces that saw citizens as the enemy and acted as foreign occupiers. SWAT raids on no-knock warrants became the go-to means for every sheriff who suddenly saw himself a soldier. Tiny counties that see a handful of crimes a month had officers armed for Fallujah. It’s no wonder they stopped seeing themselves as public servants, and started acting like conquering vigilantes. And while rural meth dealers often saw the full weight of this nightmare, it was still directed largely toward minorities, a continuation of America’s historical legacy.
It isn’t universal, of course. Many police departments, especially in big cities, tried to find a way to balance the need for order with the genuine desire for community activism. Dallas was probably the most notable city in this regards, which is what made the murder of its police over the summer doubly tragic.
But the backlash to the killing was more than outrage and sorrow; it was a backlash against the very ideas that the Dallas police tried to represent. In that hot summer filled with racial hatred and mainstreamed revanchism, Donald Trump rose, promising with zero subtlety to take America backward in time. The racial text was crystal clear. And through the revolving cast of advisors, one man stood by him: Jeff Sessions, for whom one foot forward was an abnegation of tradition.
And now Jeff Sessions is using the power granted to him by the slave-state protecting wisdoms of the Electoral College to bring it all back home. His War on Drugs announcement was quickly followed by an announcement that he was ending the attempt to bring criminal justice up to speed with new scientific developments in the hopes of reducing wrongful convictions.
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday he is ending an Obama-era partnership with independent scientists that aimed to improve the reliability of forensic science, as longstanding concerns remain about the quality of such evidence in court cases.
The Justice Department will not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a panel of judges, defense attorneys, researchers and law enforcement officials that had been advising the attorney general on the use of scientific evidence in the criminal justice process. The department will instead appoint an in-house adviser and create an internal committee to study improvements to forensic analysis, Sessions said.
To be sure, the gussy it up with weasel mouthings, thanking the commission for their service, and saying that the cause of justice will be better-served if it is handled entirely by law enforcement officers. In a vacuum, you could see why that is trouble, since they are geared toward conviction and enforcement (it’s why generals aren’t always strategists). Even progressive law enforcement types lean toward “law and order”, by default.
This isn’t even close to neutral vacuum, though. You think Jeff Sessions’s appointments will skew liberal?
Of course not. The whole point of this is to reverse the progress that was made in overturning fake science and prosecution-friendly standards that led to tens of thousands of wrongful convictions. The commission was recommending changing procedures that allowed for dubious expertise, like bite marks, to serve as evidentiary proof.
The reasons for this are clear. Sessions wants to move us away from any haltering, faltering, and at times bipartisan movements we made toward true justice (the kind practiced by legions of decent cops, judges, DAs and public defenders), and back to the days where you could be convicted for looking funny, pushed on a chain gang because a sheriff doesn’t like you, beaten in black rooms because some mustache thinks you mouthed off.
The War on Drugs was a hideous failure. Jeff Sessions wants not just to bring it back, to reverse any attempts to mitigate its excesses. And he wants to do this because it wasn’t a failure for the right people. Its cruel impact hurt black families the most, as well as Latino, and poor whites. And that’s exactly the point.
The backlash against progress is contained like a whirlwind in his little petite Grand Wizard frame. This is what November brought. This is justice in the era of Trump.