Have you ever been discriminated against because of the color of your skin? Your religion? Your gender? Your sexual orientation? Unless you’re a straight, male WASP like me, your answer is probably “yes.” But have you ever been discriminated against because you care about the environment, or because you’ve fought against domestic violence?
A report issued in June by the Justice Department’s inspector general said that a hiring committee routinely reviewed applicants for nonpartisan jobs in the department based on their political affiliations. The report found that young lawyers with any ties to “liberal” organizations or the Democratic Party were rejected far more often than their less qualified, Republican-affiliated counterparts.
Among those rejected for political reasons were Rhodes scholars, law review editors, and top-honors graduates from the nation’s top law schools. The report found that these highly qualified applicants were turned down because of involvement in environmental organizations, groups fighting against domestic violence, and groups advocating human rights.
An NPR story covering the report aptly noted, “Considering politics in the hiring process is a violation of department policy and federal law.” Obviously. But what really pisses me off here is not that a crooked committee recurrently chose unqualified Republicans over highly qualified Democrats (this has been regular enough under the Bush administration, I’m sure). I am outraged that fighting domestic violence and advocating for human rights were considered “liberal affiliations.”
That abusive husbands shouldn’t beat their wives, and that human life should be treated with respect and dignity shouldn’t be politicized issues that are up for debate. How could anyone, possibly, in good conscience, dismiss these causes as unimportant, liberal nonsense. I wish I lived in a country where the people can agree that these things are important.
I can certainly understand why there are debates between liberals and conservatives about taxes, immigration, social security, etc. These are political issues. These are difficult questions about how we should run our country, and they are up for debate. It seems entirely backwards that questions with categorical answers should be addressed in the same way: questions like, “is domestic violence acceptable?” or “are human rights important?”
In an e-mail to one of her peers, a member of the committee said she voted against candidates because their essays used what she called “leftist commentary and buzz words” like “social justice.” Social Justice should not be a political issue! In this enlightened era, I thought that even the most socially conservative politicians were supposed to at least pretend to back it. I guess Geoff Davis, the G.O.P. House member who called Barack Obama “boy,” didn’t get the memo.
Are we actually starting to openly recognize that the distinction between “liberal” and “conservative” is the distinction between those who fight against injustice, and those who turn a blind eye to it?
If recognizing that black people and women have been, and are oppressed is characteristically “liberal,” if fighting for human rights is “leftist,” and if conservatives are fighting so hard (and underhandedly) to keep the people who do these things out of powerful positions, it makes me wonder: Do these conservatives endorse the perpetrators of domestic abuse and human rights violations? Do they support the thousands of hate crimes committed in the U.S. every year?
This hiring committee was doing everything in its power to make sure that victims of domestic violence remain dominated by their abusive partners. This committee was breaking the rules to ensure that people can continue to be tortured.
What’s worse is that it took so long before the committee was held accountable for their actions. When the inspector general first confronted them about their questionable decisions, they denied considering politics as part of the hiring process. When the inspector general came to them with the report’s findings, the committee said they were “surprised.” It took years before key members were forced to resign.