DeWayne Wickham: John Lewis Vs. Barack Obama

Source: DeWayne Wickham / USA Today

This is not a civil rights battle that Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., ever wanted to wage. But it’s one he says he must fight – and win.

At issue is the White House’s submission of a slate of six nominees for federal judgeships in Georgia – two to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and four to district court judgeships in the state’s Northern District. Among the nominees is an attorneywho defended Georgia’s sweeping voter ID law, which many civil rights activists say is designed to suppress black voter turnout. Another is a former state representative who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag emblem on the Georgia state flag. And the only black among the six nominees is a Republican woman.

There has never been a black female Democrat appointed to a federal judgeship in Georgia, Lewis pointed out during a telephone interview. “Black women vote in a higher percentage than any other group in Georgia,” and they vote overwhelmingly Democratic, he said. “I think the president should do better by them.”

At stake in this fight, opponents of the backroom deal say, are some hard-won civil rights victories that might be undermined if these appointments are confirmed. Also at risk, it seems, is the special relationship between Lewis, an icon of the 1960s civil rights movement, and President Obama, who in 2010 awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom for dedicating his life “to shattering barriers and fighting injustice.”

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