Some leaders, like the Rev. Al Sharpton, suggested that Republicans had “stopped and frisked” Holder to make an “example” out of a black man. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi opined the contempt vote is retribution for Holder’s opposition to new voter ID laws that are seen as targeting minority voters in former Confederate states. MSNBC host Chris Matthews questioned whether the rancor of the contempt vote has an “ethnic” root.
The political showdown showcases a pattern that has emerged during the Obama presidency: supporters claim the opposition is racist, and critics dismiss the reaction as a knee-jerk casting of the “race card.” But its real root, say some political analysts, is more in politics than race.
“The issue of how Obama and secondarily Eric Holder have been treated, and whether race plays into it, is not crazy in the sense that a lot of the early public demonstrations had racial tinges to them, and the fact that 15 percent of whites in Mississippi voted for Obama,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “But even though the Republicans have stated that their chief goal is to see that Obama is a one-term president, what we’re seeing [with Fast and Furious] is not racial politics, it’s partisan politics.”
After a 16-month investigation, the House Oversight Committee says Holder is refusing to hand over 1,500 pages of documentation that it needs to figure out who knew about the program, and when. Holder has said making those communiqués public could put US agents at risk and cases in jeopardy, and President Obama stepped in to block the release of the documents by invoking executive privilege. A separate inspector general investigation into Fast and Furious is ongoing.