We can’t just vote to beat Trump — we have to overcome the politics that produced Trump, which means reckoning with some tough political realities.
We exist in odd times where President Trump can actually make the case that he has led on criminal justice reform through the passage of the First Step Act — which among other reforms shortened mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses; changed the “three strike provision” in the federal code from a life sentence to a 25 year sentence; and retroactively addressed the sentencing disparity for crack and cocaine.
Yes — the racist, misogynist, xenophobic Trump, who at a minimum may still be impeached, has arguably passed the most significant criminal justice reform law in a generation — even more significant than President Obama’s Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 which eliminated the 5-year mandatory minimum for crack cocaine possession. (We also know the Republicans wanted Obama to fail so it’s a miracle he got us this.)
Trump also can boast Black, Latino and Asian American unemployment reaching all time lows under his presidency.
(Of course, Black unemployment jumped from the all-time low quickly and is still nearly twice as high as white unemployment — and I’d be remised if I didn’t note under Obama’s presidency Black unemployment dropped from 16.8% to 7.8% — so he did the heavy lifting on this issue.)
One of the great ironies of our time is that even though Kanye West has seemed to embrace Trump, as did 13% of Black men according to the NBC exit polls (2016), we all know that Trump doesn’t care about Black people.
I think even the casual policy observer will find all kinds of challenges for our community in Trump’s record, but criminal justice reform and relatively low Black unemployment is on any Black agenda.
So, before we make the case for the Democrats, we have to consider that the racist, misogynist, xenophobic man-child of a president is going to make a decent case on some issues that have mattered to our community for some time.
On the other side of the aisle, my colleague Larry Smith, noted that the 1994 crime bill was going to be an issue for current Democratic front-runner Joe “Mass Incarceration” Biden.
If we were to ask the current front runner of the Democratic Party primary, Joe “Mass Incarceration” Biden about the 1994 crime bill then you would get a non-apology and more of a defense of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 — a bill he co-authored.
He’s on record as stating earlier this month at a campaign event, and according to CNN that, “This idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration — it did not generate mass incarceration.”
I’m going to take Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” Ava Duvernay’s “13th” and really most of the scholarship on the subject as the “BIG FACTS” on this matter; which not only point out that crime had begun to decline before the enactment of the 1994 crime bill, but that also incarceration significantly increased in federal, state and local facilities due to the passage of the bill.
Yes, Joe “Mass Incarceration” Biden is trying to give us alternative facts.
He’s hanging his hat on the reality that only about 10% of all prisoners serve time in federal prisons without acknowledging how federal law influences state law.
We are operating in strange political times when he can even run and be a frontrunner.
The Black community has on many occasions been the victim of government actions.
And no, this isn’t a column on victimhood — but legitimately government has implemented policies that hurt us — and disproportionately relative to the larger community.
Besides slavery and the lack of federal protections for civil rights during Reconstruction and Jim Crow, it is hard to think of a policy that has had more of a devastating impact on our community than The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
And Joe “Mass Incarceration” Biden was an unapologetic author of the bill.
Never mind, that his campaign has now insulted not one but two strong Black women by presuming that they would be his number two.
And the non-apology to Anita Hill….
He owes our community a full-throated apology. And I’ll know that it means something when he takes what the young folks call “several seats.”
But the reality is, I’m not interested in the political paradigms of the past — I’m trying to embrace the politics of the future which could be any of the other 20-plus candidates.
It’s early in the cycle so anything could happen.
I just know we can’t just beat Trump, we have to overcome the politics that created him, which from my perspective would mean beating Joe “Mass Incarceration” Biden, too.
Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at email@example.com.