On Monday, Jan. 18, Georgia’s first-term U.S. senator, David Perdue, issued a brief statement honoring Martin Luther King Jr., whose “actions to advance justice continue to inspire us all to do better.” Two days later, Perdue stood in the way of justice and betrayed King’s ideals.
Perdue scuttled the U.S. District Court nomination of a fellow Republican, Dax Lopez, because of concerns about “his longstanding participation in a controversial organization.”
That controversial organization isn’t the Communist Party or domestic terrorists ready to seize Fort McPherson, nor is Lopez tied to neo-Nazis or the Klan, neither of which would likely welcome the Jewish Latino from DeKalb County.
No, the dread organization is the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. For Lopez, a Latino elected official as a state judge, being part of GALEO is about as radical as Congressman John Lewis being a member of the NAACP.
In fact, the NAACP, with its responses to issues of particular concern to the black community, such as police shootings and Confederate memorials, could be seen as every bit as controversial as GALEO, whose offense is activism on behalf of Hispanic immigrants, even those here illegally.
Standing up for fellow Latinos puts GALEO on the wrong side of an increasingly rabid group of activists for whom absolutism on immigration — no illegals, no amnesty, no reform, no exceptions — is the political litmus test of our time.
That group has the ear of Perdue, who gave far less time to Lopez than to people such as D.A. King, a rhetorical warrior against “the vast, corporate-funded illegal alien lobby.” To put King in perspective, he wants to oust Rep. Tom Price, one of the most conservative members of the House Republican leadership, for being too soft on immigration enforcement.
King threatened the political futures of Perdue and Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is running for re-election, if Lopez even got a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
By custom, the Senate does not consider judicial nominations without the go-ahead of the senators from the nominee’s state. Isakson told King in a public forum that Lopez deserved a hearing. Perdue, whose cousin Sonny Perdue as governor first put Lopez on the bench in 2010, disagreed.
We’re not sure which possibility is worse: that Perdue is scared of King or that he agrees with him.
There’s no reason to believe every member of the GALEO board, on which Lopez served, agrees on every decision and every position, any more than we expect unanimity among the board members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Regardless, we reject the idea that membership in an advocacy group should be grounds for automatic rejection of a judicial nominee.
Lopez did not deserve confirmation for being Jewish or Latino or Republican. Nor should he have been rejected for those associations or any others, including GALEO. Judging an individual requires examining that person’s actions, beliefs and court decisions.
We don’t know how Lopez would have done under the scrutiny of the Judiciary Committee, although the vehemence with which his opponents fought his hearing leads us to suspect he would have won over the Senate.
The point is that Perdue, by prejudging the judge, betrayed Martin Luther King’s dream to see people judged by the content of their character. The senator thus betrayed us, the people of Georgia, who elected him.