DMI Blog

Ezekiel Edwards

Seeing Purple

After the elections, this country's previously red palate has a decidedly bluer tint, though a substantial number of states in which conservative Democratic candidates were elected look purple to me (which is what you get when you mix some blue anti-war with some red anti-choice, for instance).

Do these elections mark a new direction for this country? Perhaps we will apply the brakes to our pro-war, pro-corporate, anti-poor, anti-middle class greedy isolationist hubristic caravan, halting our tumbling descent down the destructive path on which we've been barreling recklessly for half a decade. But even then, in which direction will we head? Or will we just be at a standstill?

On the map of criminal "justice", I would be surprised if our new Congress pushes us in a different direction. Consider our unconscionably high incarceration rate, the highest per capita in the world. It is not a Republican or Democratic phenomenon that changes with every election cycle; rather, it is an American spectacle that permeates both parties. The explosive growth in prison construction and the corresponding increase in our prison population may have started under President Reagan, but it continued undeterred during President Clinton's eight-year presidency. The same can be said for our race- and class- based war on drugs, which has seen only piecemeal reform over the past decade.

Only one Democratic Senator (Russ Feingold of Wisconsin) voted against the Patriot Act (the "Yeas" votes included Barbara Boxer, Hilary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, and Chuck Schumer, in addition to Nancy Pelosi in the House), a controversial law that raises constitutional concerns over our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and which has been condemned through resolution by various states and numerous cities and counties.

As for the death penalty, which has lost some of its mass appeal recently, many Democrats support it, from Eliot Spitzer to Hilary Clinton. Bill Clinton, celebrated humanitarian that he has become, left the campaign trail in 1992 to preside over the execution of a retarded man, Ricky Ray Rector in Arkansas (who, in addition to earning the nickname "the Chickman" because he thought the guards were throwing alligators and chickens into his cell, on the night of his execution, saved a slice of pie from his last meal to be eaten at bedtime --- after his execution --- and told his attorney that he would like to vote for Clinton in the fall).

Re-painting our political map does not necessarily herald substantial changes in criminal justice policies. Until our representatives push for intelligent reform in our approach to drugs, prisons, incarceration, enfranchisement, policing, poverty, gerrymandering, rehabilitation, and capital punishment, it makes no difference whether our criminal justice policies come in shades of blue, red, or purple.

Ezekiel Edwards: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 8:25 AM, Nov 14, 2006 in Criminal Justice | Politics | Progressive Agenda
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