Sunday, February 9, 2014

SLATE: Mercy and The Right

In December of 2010, we summarized what we called the Conservative Case for the Pardon Power. Now comes a wonderful follow-up kind of article from SLATE, and David Weigel. It begins with this excerpt from a recent speech given by Rand Paul:
... As Christians, we believe in forgiveness ... I think the criminal justice system should have some element of forgiveness ... there are also people who make youthful mistakes who I believe deserve a second chance. In my state, you never vote again if you’re convicted of a felony. But a felony could be growing marijuana plants in college. Friend of mine’s brother did 30 years ago. He has an MBA. But he can’t vote, can’t own a gun, and he’s a house-painter with an MBA, because he has to check a box saying he’s a convicted felon.”
Weigel notes Conservatives are "ready to talk about lighter sentences for some criminals and for the restoration of felons’ rights." Indeed,  both parties "are raring for it" and "in a subtle kind of way, they’re racing to take credit for it, too." Weigel, with astuteness, observes:
This is a reversal of a trend that helped create the modern Republican Party. After bottoming out in the 1964 election, Republicans surged back in 1966 and won the presidency in 1968. They cracked the old Democratic coalition, in part because rising crime rates and visions of urban riots sent voters sprinting away from liberalism. “In recent years,” said Richard Nixon in a 1968 campaign ad, “crime in this country has grown nine times as fast as population. At the current rate, the crimes of violence in America will double by 1972.” As he talked, images of dead bodies, guns, and wild-eyed protesters played over a soundtrack of atonal horn blasts and drumbeats. For three more decades, Republicans could win tight elections by capitalizing on the fear of crime. Democrats met them where they could, to neutralize the issue, because to be called “soft on crime” was to be exiled with Michael Dukakis. 
Now, of course, the fiscal impart of mass incarceration and the mandatory minimum sentences which fuel it are considered well worth a second look. We agree with Weigel, "Here is a cause whose time should have come many, many years ago." See the full article here.

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