Can Republicans Handle HRC Talking Sense?

So even as the political world seeks–probably in vain, since it’s not the first or last time for such incidents–to maintain its balance in the wake of the latest wake-up call about police/minority relations, this one from Baltimore, Hillary Clinton is going to make a speech at Columbia University that addresses both the events in Baltimore and criminal justice reform.

According to Bloomberg Politics‘ Jennifer Epstein, HRC will call for “an end to the era of mass incarceration:”

Clinton’s comments will come in the first policy speech of her campaign, at Columbia University in New York, where she will outline her vision for criminal justice reform, a campaign aide said.

The former secretary of state plans to call for a changed approach to punishment and prison, including making changes to probation practices, finding alternative punishments for low-level offenders, and increasing support for mental health and drug treatment.

You have to wonder if HRC was planning a speech on criminal justice reform and added on the stuff about police practices after Baltimore exploded, but maybe not. Eventually we all need to understand that long mandatory minimum sentences for relatively minor offenses and targeted arrests of African-American men for even less than that are part of the same rotten system wherein African-American neighborhoods are treated like enemy territory under armed occupation and martial law. So I’m glad to see she is, for whatever reason, keeping the two issues linked.

The timing of this speech is important for a different reason, too. As Republicans consider (privately if not publicly) the opportunity for racial demagoguery over Baltimore even as many are hesitating on the brink of action on criminal justice reform, can they handle Hillary Clinton making constructive suggestions on these linked subjects? I mean, the provocation could hardly be more tempting, short of Barack Obama running up on the stage and high-fiving Clinton as she closes her speech with a quote from Saul Alinsky. And this is all the more reason to be pleased if we make it through this week without at least one major Republican proto-presidential candidate losing it and beginning to channel George Wallace and Spiro Agnew.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.