Sunday, January 18, 2015

Eric Holder in American History

Mary L. Dudziak

Attorney General Eric Holder's statement on Friday that the administration would likely file an Amicus Brief in the same-sex marriage cases is an example of why I told New York Magazine that Holder is a member of the cabinet likely to be regarded by historians as consequential 20 years from now. Holder said that the government "will urge the Supreme Court to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans.  It is time for our nation to take another critical step forward to ensure the fundamental equality of all Americans—no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love." When historians look back, the rapid progress on marriage equality will be a striking feature of the early 21st century, and Holder's actions will not be forgotten.

Development of the secret law of surveillance and targeted killing, and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, will not be forgotten either. In LGBTQ rights and security matters, it will be the enduring impact of legal change that will make Holder stand out as more consequential in the future than he may have seemed to be during the administration itself.

Among the 53 historians included in the piece on how historians will look back on the Obama Administration, Joyce Appleby and Charles Kesler agreed with me. Annette Gordon-Reed included Valerie Jarrett alongside Holder in importance. Crystal Feimster, Matthew Lassiter, and Robert Williams listed both Holder and Hillary Clinton. Many others pointed to Jarrett, Clinton or John Kerry. Others noted were: Timothy Geitner, John Brennan, Kathy Ruemmler, Nancy Pelosi, Susan Rice, Elizabeth Warren and Larry Summers. Lots of people included in the article skipped this question.

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