Yeah, I know, the president is a little late in making a push for prison reform. You know, he had that Great Recession to deal with and a major auto industry bailout. There was a national health care reform to enact. And he had to track down that bin-Laden guy. He was busy repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and converting the Defense of Marriage Act into a Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. Speaking of which, there were a couple of woman he needed to see confirmed to the Supreme Court. He had to get us out of Iraq and wind down the war in Afghanistan. He had to normalize relations with Cuba. Since the bedwetters in Congress wouldn’t let him close down Gitmo, he had to empty it of all the folks who didn’t actually do anything. There were some banks that needed to get kicked out of the Federal Student Loan program. He had to double the fuel efficiency of cars and turn solar energy into a booming industry. He had to reform the credit card industry and create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He had to completely makeover and modernize the nation’s food safety protocols and make it so the FDA could regulate tobacco. He was busy getting rid of that crack/powder cocaine disparity and crushing the corrupt for-profit college industry. And don’t make me tell you about the Lilly Ledbetter Act, how he had to produce his birth certificate, or all the times he had to go to court to protect his accomplishments.

It’s kind of telling what’s been unable to do. He got comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate with something like 18 Republican votes, but it died in the irredeemably racist House of Representatives. He couldn’t get any background checks on gun purchases even in the face of many appalling mass shootings, including the massacre of two classrooms of first grade students in Connecticut. And he is only now getting to a push for real prison reform.

We have many hard problems in this country, but none more difficult than guns and race. Compared to guns and race, Cuba and Iran were easy. Think about that for a while.

But, if I told you back in 2007 that if you helped elect Barack Obama he would accomplish all these things and that the Confederate Flag would come down all over the country, too, you would have signed up to volunteer, right?

What if I told you he would do it with no help from the Republicans who would fight him every step of the way?

Would you bet against him getting something done about our senseless system of mass incarceration?

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at