What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you? Do you fight on regardless? Do you cave in and give up? Do you join what looks like the winning side? Do you let it ride and do nothing? What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
I had to ask myself this question concerning the nomination of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. I have more than 30 years of experiences with Senator Sessions. I know him to have a nice personality. But this is not about personality: it is about principles and positions. It is important to understand that Senator Sessions is bad on too many positions. I know from personal experience because I was deeply involved in the Marion Three cases back in 1985. As recently as last year, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge him to remove his opposition to potential African-American nominees for federal judge in Alabama. So when I asked myself what should I do, I answered from my experience. But I did not act until I consulted with various leaders with whom I work. What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
I am certain others asked their own questions. I am certain some came up with different positions. They are entitled to their position as I am to mine. However, I can in good conscience be disappointed with their positions. They can also be disappointed with my position. What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
I was greatly disappointed when my fellow struggler and former mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama, immediately endorsed Senator Sessions upon his nomination for Attorney General of the United States of America. Former Mayor Johnny Ford is a co-chair of SOS (the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy). SOS has taken a strong position against Senator Sessions’ confirmation. I recognize that former Mayor Ford probably interacted with Sessions over the years as Mayor of Tuskegee. I also observed that in his letter of endorsement he asked for a job in the Justice Department under Senator Sessions. Still, I was deeply disappointed and wished that he had held a phone conference to discuss the matter with other SOS leaders. What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
My fellow state legislator, Senator Quinton Ross, quickly endorsed Senator Sessions for Attorney General. He is entitled to endorse whomever he chooses. However, he heads the Senate Democratic Caucus of which I am a member. As Senate Minority Leader, every time he speaks publicly on an issue, he represents me and every other member of the Caucus. In fact, the headline of a news article read, “Democratic Leader in Alabama Senate Praises Jeff Session.” I just wish Senator Ross had held a conference call so Caucus members could discuss this most consequential of matters. When officers were being elected to the caucus, I deliberately did not take any leadership position because I knew I would be taking strong individual positions on various issues and did not want my actions to infringe on other caucus members. What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
I was not disappointed when Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner endorsed U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, but I was deeply and profoundly hurt. I know how much his mother and father suffered from the actions of U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions because I suffered with them. I know how much his mother still suffers with nightmares from her experience with U. S. Attorney Sessions more than 30 years ago. I know how strongly she spoke out against the nomination of Senator Sessions. I just wish that Commissioner Turner had considered the deep pain of his dear mother. What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
Even though I knew that I would not be a live witness, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Senator Sessions’ nomination. I had already submitted my written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was so painful to sit there and hear the statement of Commissioner Turner being read into the record. I just wish that the statement of his mother, Evelyn Turner, could have been read aloud immediately after Albert’s statement. She had submitted strong written testimony against the confirmation of Senator Sessions. What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
The day after the hearing, I participated in a media conference call with representatives of several organizations. I knew more clearly than ever that the odds were against our stopping Sessions’ confirmation, but I continued to do what I could. And so did others. What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?
EPILOGUE – No matter how much we disagree with the actions of others, we must respect their right to act. However, their right to act does not compromise our right to react to their actions. We must also embrace the right of others to react to our actions. And we must include the weight of the issues in the equation.