Eric Holder Urged Progressives to 'Advance the Cause,' Bring About a 'Liberal Renaissance'

Despite some claims to the contrary today, Eric Holder was a committed progressive who saw himself as fighting a battle for the “soul of the nation” in hopes that a “liberal renaissance” would took place.

After word broke that Eric Holder would resign as Attorney General today, at least one high profile media observer, Chuck Todd, suggested he was “a very nonpolitical person.” This seemed so far off base that I assumed Chuck Todd’s comments were being misunderstood. Maybe what he’d intended to say was Holder was such an ardent progressive that he wasn’t always a very good politician. But when confronted on this point, Todd affirmed that he’d meant just what he said, i.e. Holder wasn’t as political as people assumed.

In fact, there is plenty of evidence of how Holder’s partisanship. He saw his role in government as fighting the long battle for progressive values against conservatives who he most often defined as fear-mongers. It’s not necessary to guess what Holder believed one merely has to read the transcript of a speeches he gave to the progressive American Constitution Society in 2003 and 2004. Holder’s 2003 speech opens:

We are engaged in a battle for the soul of our nation. We are at a critical time in that battle. This country can take one of two paths over the coming years. We can continue down the road that threatens our civil liberties while not truly protecting us, down the road that challenges women’s rights in the reproductive choices they make, down the road where the environment in which our children will live will be degraded, down the road that will not take us back- but take us to a place where this nation has never been before. There is an alternative to the fear, the mistrust, that seems to drive so much of our conservative brethren’s agenda. That alternative, that other path, is rooted in our Constitution and found in the work of progressive men and women throughout our history. That other path runs right through the American Constitution Society.

And Holder made no pretense of what the ACS was about. A few paragraphs later he calls it, “a mechanism for the development of progressive/liberal ideas.” Holder closed his 2003 speech with another reference to the battle for the soul of the nation and a call to progressives to use the power they have or “will acquire” to advocate for a “new America.”

We are engaged in a battle for the soul, the heart, of this nation. I urge all of you to use your formidable skills and the power that you have, or will acquire, to make this nation better. As the inheritors of the liberal/progressive tradition this is our duty. I urge all of you to play key roles in the coming years in advocating for both a new agenda and a new America.

Holder returned to the ACS podium in 2004 and recalled his rhetoric of the previous year. Again, note the use of “we” to indicate that Holder himself is one of those engaged in the partisan battle.

Now when I spoke to you last year, I said that we were engaged in a battle for the soul of our nation. That battle continues today, and if anything, has become even more consequential. The arrogance of our conservative brethren in the exercise of the power that they temporarily hold is breathtaking. From redistricting schemes, to attacks on abortion rights, to energy policies that are as shortsighted as they are ineffective, to tax cuts that disproportionately favor those who are well off and perpetuate many of the inequities in our nation, the conservative movement has been unafraid to push the limits in advancing this agenda. Now we need not be as arrogant as those on the right, but we must be mindful of their passion in achieving their goals. We must be equally passionate. We must be more committed, and we must be unexpectedly disciplined in our efforts.

A few paragraphs later he even works in an attack on Fox News [emphasis added]:

With the mainstream media somewhat cowered by conservative critics, and the conservative media disseminating the news in anything but a fair and balanced manner, and you know what I mean there, the means to reach the greatest number of people is not easily accessible.

The speech ends, once again, with a call to arms [emphasis added]:

Quite simply, it is time to act. It is time to organize. It is time to retake the levers of government and to use them for the common good. It is time, finally, to be true to our ideological heritage. And so my challenge to you tonight is to leave this convention renewed in your convictions, and committed to using your abundant talents for the good of the citizens of this country.

At the end of every week, I want you to ask yourselves, what have I done in the past seven days to advance the cause? How have I made more likely this liberal renaissance? In doing so, you will help to solve the national problems, old and new, that are at issue.

Replace “progressive” with “conservative” and this is a speech that Rush Limbaugh could give. Apolitical? Not thinking as a partisan? Granted these speeches were given several years before Holder became Attorney General in 2009, but that was several years after he worked as Deputy Attorney General for Bill Clinton. This is, simply put, a very partisan individual. If there is evidence that he stopped thinking like this over the past five years, Chuck Todd ought to offer it. There are all sorts of reasons not to take his word for it.


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