The Democrats in the U.S. Senate threw everything they could find at Jeff Sessions, including an occasional kitchen sink, but it was not enough. Rant as they might, the mild-mannered senator from Alabama, was nevertheless confirmed by a vote of 52 to 47. One Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, broke from the mob to vote to confirm him.
The new attorney general might thank, in addition to his Republican colleagues in the Senate, a man who was no longer there. If Harry Reid of Nevada, the former leader of the former Democratic majority, had not changed Senate rules when he was the leader of a Democratic majority to manipulate confirmation of Democratic nominees, Mr. Sessions might never have been confirmed. Sometimes justice breaks through.
Mr. Sessions was well liked by Democratic colleagues, many of whom had praised him over the years they served together. The Republican majority assured him of confirmation, but few expected the final days before the vote to be as bitterly contentious as they were. Democrats, with not even a wink and a nudge at Mr. Sessions to urge him not to take the calumny seriously, attacked him relentlessly as a man they knew well to be a racist, a liar and a monster.
Mr. Sessions, a Southerner with the polite and courtly manner which endeared him to his colleagues, handled with his usual aplomb the way men and women he had worked with turned on him for partisan ideological advantage. Through his long career, Mr. Sessions has proved himself the exact opposite of those who assaulted his character. The new attorney general was, and is, a man who can disagree with a peer without being disagreeable.
The Democrats, driven by rage and unexpected disappointment after the Nov. 8 elections, have adopted a trash-and-burn strategy to pander to radical leftists in the party who reject civility and demand that their leaders dedicate themselves to destroying an administration they won’t accept as legitimate. That they now call themselves “the resistance” suggests that the mindless bang and irresponsible clamor of the streets is not likely to subside soon.
The attacks on the character of Betsy DeVos leading up to her confirmation as secretary of Education, coupled with the refusal of Chuck Schumer to vote on the nomination of Elaine Chao to be secretary of Transportation, were particularly disheartening to some Democrats, who could not find the courage to depart from Mr. Schumer’s failed strategy. Mrs. Chao is the wife of Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate and the longtime friend of many of his colleagues, and served well in two previous Cabinet posts, for which she was confirmed by wide margins.
The fight over the nominations portends a more partisan, more ideological era in the Senate. The loyal opposition thus becomes loyal only to the partisan demands of the Democratic Party. The nation has not seen such unyielding opposition to a new president since the years leading to the Civil War a century and more ago. Around and around it goes, and where this bitter partisanship stops no one can know. But prospects are not reassuring.