Yesterday the New York Times ran a lengthy (and welcome) editorial urging Congress to act on sentencing reform, and lamented that they probably aren’t going to pass either the Smarter Sentencing Act or the Recidivisim Reduction and Public Safety Act this summer.
They list the reasons why they believe the issue has been back burnered, but they seem to be forgetting one:
- Senators Grassley, Sessions and Cornyn came out against sentencing reform and in favor of mandatory minimums
- The Obama’s Administration’s April announcement that it will consider clemency for inmates serving time under old sentencing laws
As a result, they say, the issue will likely be pushed into 2015.
The Times seems to forget that the impact of the evil revolving-door Willie Horton ad that did so much damage to the political aspirations of Michael Dukakis is still being felt across the political landscape:
As recently s [October 2013], the spirit of the Horton ad visited the New York City mayoral race. Republican candidate Joe Lhota released an attack ad warning that if Democrat Bill de Blasio is elected, “recklessly dangerous agenda on crime will take us back to this.” The ad, called “Can’t Go Back,” featured ominous black and white photos from the 1970s through the 1990s, including the image of a frightened white woman on a graffiti-filled subway car.
Anyone who thinks they are going to take up a risky issue like sentencing reform this summer before an election is smoking crack, especially in the wake of primary losses of Eric Cantor and (likely tomorrow) Thad Cochran. While the country as a whole is so gerrymandered that few incumbents are genuinely threatened, members of Congress get notoriously risk averse when they smell political blood in the air.