If Jeff Sessions is the same man rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 and that is powerfully demonstrated, he should and just possibly might be denied confirmation as attorney general. But, if he’s changed in those 30 plus years, there’s not only no chance of rejection but no reason consistent with the democratic process that resulted in his nomination. Elections have consequences and Sessions may be the most qualified of Trump’s designees, though the last person I would want to head the DOJ.
Sessions’ 1985 failed prosecution of black voting rights activists and then recent acts of racial insensitivity sealed his fate in 1986. But his tenure as U.S. Attorney, as Alabama’s Attorney General and in the United States Senate demonstrate his qualifications to become A.G. As a United States Senator from Alabama, his positions on abortion, same sex marriage, rights to be afforded immigrants, and legislation involving hate crimes and violence against women were unsurprising, but do not prove he would not enforce enacted laws with which he disagrees. The body language of the Democratic senators fighting the pro-forma fight say they believe he will uphold laws he voted against and uphold SCOTUS precedents whose legal soundness he questions – as Eric Holder and con law professor Obama upheld the Heller and McDonald Second Amendment interpretations they believed were a perversion of the constitution and its framers’ intent.
The question of whether Sessions 1986 is still that man is the relevant question, as it was in the granddaddy of modern nomination fights, the autumn 1987 hearings on Robert Bork’s SCOTUS nomination. Bork’s nomination by President Reagan was defeated because the Senate, including six prominent Republicans were able to sing “Meet the new Bork, same as the old Bork.” The most dramatic moment in those hearings was the testimony of William T. Coleman, a member of two Republican cabinets, distinguished SCOTUS advocate and the first African American to clerk on the high court. Coleman was grilled by Bork supporter Senator Strom Thurmond about the asserted unfairness of rejecting Bork in 1987 for things he did/said/wrote in the 1960s and 1970s. Coleman, for decades top of list to become the second African American justice delivered the knockout punches to Bork and Thurmond, contrasting the South Carolina’s senator’s racist and segregationist past with his moderate 1987 version. Coleman then skillfully documented that Bork steadfastly maintained his hostility to many core civil liberties, including privacy, and that he would be free to weaponize these extreme positions with votes from the high court bench.
If and only if a showing like that can be made about Jeff Sessions and powerfully delivered by an apolitical and respected authority like Bill Coleman (he is only 96 and may be available) there is a small chance of rejection. If not, time to move on to the many right wing and unqualified Trump nominees.