Conservatives in general, but especially the 2016 GOP nominee, must make criminal justice system reform an issue that they get behind in their campaign. I know a lot of conservatives don’t like [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ], but he’s absolutely right in his position on this issue, and he’s not only talked about it, he’s trying to pass laws that will correct it.
He recently gave a speech on criminal justice reform at a historically black university that was well received and even got moments of applause several times. I encourage all conservatives to watch it here.
The bills he’s putting forward are common sense solutions to these problems, such as turning felonies into misdemeanors for non-violent offenses like drug possession, so those people who committed the crime many years ago and have reformed themselves could now vote and get a job.
I believe the political ramifications of this issue can’t be overestimated. Regardless of who the GOP nominee is, if they don’t even talk about this issue or bring it up at all, it will be a big mistake and a huge missed opportunity.
Why? For one thing it’s a political winner, but it’s also an actual substantive policy change that needs to be made, because our criminal justice system is really messed up, and by reforming it, we could get a lot of black democrats to at least think about voting republican, since the democrats haven’t done anything to reform that system.
The GOP can adopt these policies and make them a part of its platform and its campaign, and integrate it into its outreach efforts to the minoriy communities across the nation. This effort would not only show that they’re interested in helping minorities, it would show that they’re compassionate and are aware of the needs of the people in our society who are poverty stricken or less fortunate than most of us. Also, it would draw a stark contrast between the GOP and democrats, who claim to be the party that helps minorities, but who haven’t lifted a finger to do anything to fix the mess that is our criminal justice system, or help minorities in any way other than giving them handouts, which really isn’t helping them in the long run.
This same logic applies to our civil forfeiture laws. They make no sense and often hurt poor minorities, and they need to be changed. By changing them we’d be helping those minorities while simultaneously changing the perception people have of the Republican party. Democrats and liberals in the media could no longer claim the GOP is only the party of rich white people or only cares about big business and not the little guy or minorities. Our words and actions would be proving them wrong, and there’d be no denying it.
By taking this position on criminal justice reform, I think there’d be no doubt we’d increase our percentage of the minority vote in the 2016 election, but even if we didn’t, it would still be the right thing to do. I think this is a good example that proves the idea that good policies make good politics.
The GOP nominee and the party as a whole should pair this push for criminal justice reform with reform of our education system. Both of these problems have a disproportionate impact on minorities and poor people in general, and both are caused by the same root problem, which is bad or excessive gov’t regulations and laws that limit or take away the freedoms of individuals.
In one case, the gov’t takes away the freedom of a man who had a drug in his possession twenty years ago by preventing him from voting and having a job, even though he hasn’t done anything bad since then and has made every effort to integrate himself back into society as an upstanding citizen. In the other case, gov’t takes away the freedom of both parents and their kids by making it illegal for them to send their kids to the school of their choice, the school that will give their kids the best chance to succeed and thus rise up out poverty and break the vicious cycle they’ve been born into.
Our nominee must draw the contrast between the GOP and democrats on these issues and show that the democrats support all the laws and regulations that take away the freedoms of these individuals, while conservatives are in favor of getting rid of these laws and giving people their freedom back. Then leave it up to the voters to decide what kind of country they wanna live in. But they can’t make a fully informed choice between the candidates unless they know where the nominee stands on these issues and see a significant difference between him and the democrat nominee. They didn’t have much of a choice in 2012. I’m hoping that changes in 2016.