Opinion Why Dems Clammed Up About Reforming a Racist Justice System
Hundreds of marches begin nationwide as protesters decry 'unprecedented attack' on reproductive rights
The marches come a month since a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy took effect. Your browser does not support this video © Leigh Vogel, Getty Images for Women's March Protesters attend the Rally For Abortion Justice on October 02 in Washington, DC. In Washington, D.C.'s Rally for Abortion Justice, a crowd of protesters gathered Saturday morning around a banner proclaiming "Bans off our bodies!" as Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" blasted from speakers.
You probably didn’t hear that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a package ofbills last month, including accountability and transparency measures long sought by local justice reform activists. Or that Illinois in February as part of a set of reforms that also restructured the state’s pretrial detention system. Or that Oklahoma—a red state—is in the midst of an unexpectedly bipartisan conversation about lost in its overflowing network of jails.
If you did hear about any of those stories, it almost certainly wasn’t from Democratic politicians. Even as state and local reformers continue to post major victories on cash bail and ending the school-to-prison pipeline, national Democrats have almost entirely abandoned discussing criminal justice reform in public.
What's old is new again: Justices back at court for new term
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is beginning a momentous new term with a return to familiar surroundings, the mahogany and marble courtroom that the justices abandoned more than 18 months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. Abortion, guns and religion all are on the agenda for a court with a rightward tilt, including three justices appointed by President Donald Trump. The justices will meet in person for arguments Monday, although Justice Brett Kavanaugh will participate remotely from his home after testing positive for COVID-19 late last week. Kavanaugh, who was vaccinated in January, is showing no symptoms, the court said.
It wasn’t long ago that Democrats—led by then-candidate Joe Biden—fearlessly championed sweeping criminal justice and policing reforms as part of their successful 2020 campaign messaging. Rewarded with power, Democrats quickly lost their appetite for pushing what Republicans framed as radical legislation designed to “defund the police”—despiteactually supporting broad criminal justice reforms.
Bipartisan discussions around criminal justice reform, which were already dying of neglect after months of inaction,after Republicans refused to support Democrat-proposed measures to increase police accountability. Equally to blame is the amateurish way Democrats have allowed the GOP to drive messaging around criminal justice reform in what amounts to Democratic lawmakers scaring themselves with their own shadows.
Abortion, guns, religion: Supreme Court returns to a docket full of explosive cases
The Supreme Court begins a new term Oct. 4 that may be one of its most significant in years, with major cases pending on abortion, guns and religion.After a busier-than-expected summer break, when the nation's highest court toppled President Joe Biden's eviction moratorium and let stand for now a Texas ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, the court will once again hear in-person oral arguments and hand down formal opinions as it starts another nine-month term.
For over a year, Republicans painted a frenzied narrative of record crime rates, anarchy in the streets, and naive liberals disarming and disrespecting law enforcement—even as local Democrats funneled anto the NYPD and blue cities across America boosted to record levels.
Despite knowing voters were on their side, Democrats took the GOP’s bait. Leadership, including Biden, began to visibly back away from the criminal justice reformers who make up a big chunk of the party’s activist base. That was cowardly at the time. Now that the GOP’s arguments have been shown to be nonsense, continued Democratic silence is indefensible.
Last year the Brennan Center published “,” an actionable blueprint for Democrats’ professed desire to reform everything from policing to prisons. Unfortunately for the reformers, the Biden administration has ducked polarizing issues like clemency reform and fixing our police. That leaves small, often poorly resourced state and local efforts in the bizarre and embarrassing position of advocating more loudly for the Democratic agenda than the Democratic Party does.
'Above the partisan divide'? Supreme Court begins heated new term amid slipping support
Criticism of the Supreme Court, particularly from the left, has prompted four justices to speak out publicly in recent days to defend the high court.With abortion, gun rights and religion featured prominently on the docket in coming weeks, the high court is diving into culture war controversies as several of the justices have fanned out in recent weeks to publicly defend against criticism on the left, sinking approval ratings and a bevy of proposed structural changes.
“Leadership at the federal level does, we believe, inspire change at the state and local level,” Brennan Center for Justice Senior Counsel Ames Grawert tells The Daily Beast. “But states are making their own progress this year, with New York recently enacting the Less Is More Act, a major parole reform bill, and a statewide ‘clean slate’ law.”
With bipartisan talks tanked and any hope for passage of the ambitious George Floyd Justice in Policing Act gone, state and local activists are facing a political landscape where a new party holds power but little has actually changed.
That’s infuriating to Scott Hechinger, a civil rights attorney from Los Angeles who founded, a national organization to train public defenders. Hechinger, whose influential often reads like a laundry list of the latest criminal justice outrages, doesn’t mince words about how abandoned many reformers feel.
“The response from our local and national Democratic leaders has been deeply disappointing and more than that, dangerous,” Hechinger told The Daily Beast. “Instead of using their platforms to… educate their constituents about the truth of our need to end a half century of profoundly racist, costly, failed strategies, they’ve demeaned the movement for justice they claimed to support.”
South Africa's Desmond Tutu turns 90 amid new racist slur
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — As South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu turns 90, recent racist graffiti on a portrait of the Nobel winner highlights the continuing relevance of his work for equality. Often hailed as the conscience of South Africa, Tutu was a key campaigner against South Africa's previous brutal system of oppression against the country's Black majority. After South Africa achieved democracy in 1994, he continued to be an outspoken proponent of reconciliation, justice and LBGT rights.
Hechinger cites Democrats’ public distancing from the criminal justice reform movement as especially demoralizing. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, no stranger to presiding over police violence, oncewho demanded police reform. In March, Democratic Reps. Ron Kind and Jared Golden theatrically the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Those most likely to suffer for Congress’ inaction are the very communities already facing the brunt ofand a patchwork of state legal systems that only overlap in their shared priority of jailing Black and brown Americans at —even if that means to justify fraudulent arrests, as officials did in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Bad actors across our justice system rush to take advantage of Washington’s gridlock with predictably nightmarish consequences for those least likely to be seen or heard by their elected officials.
Seattle-area council member's campaign mailer deemed 'racist' and 'horrifying'
A county council member in Washington is being criticized after a mailer was deemed "racist" and "xenophobic" by members of the county's legislative body.A county council member in Washington is being criticized after a mailer was deemed "racist" and "xenophobic" by members of the county's legislative body.
Without Democrats to lead on criminal justice and policing issues, the national conversation has fallen eerily silent. Public engagement around criminal justice reform peaked in January of this year,from Google Trends, but has since fallen by roughly three quarters. Once a major unifying issue, Democrats are now barely whispering about fixing our justice system.
As the nation heads into what is shaping up to be one of the nastiest midterm election fights in memory, the window for serious criminal justice reform is closing. There are still opportunities for bipartisan action, if only Democrats would dare to restart the conversation: the EQUAL Act, which would eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine, is one area of broad agreement. The First Step Implementation Act, which would make portions of the 2018 sentencing reform law retroactive, is another.
If Democrats want those wins, they need to recommit to one of their most fundamental campaign promises: that we must rebuild the fatally flawed, violent, costly mess that currently stands in place of a true justice system.
Texas' six-week abortion ban: Biden administration takes case back to Supreme Court .
Supreme Court justices are expected to move swiftly to address Texas' abortion law after an emergency appeal by the Biden administration.The appeal gives the high court a chance to temporarily block enforcement of the most restrictive abortion law in the country for the second time in as many months and represents the latest development in a whirlwind of litigation around the Texas ban.