Some of us are old enough to remember that in 2009, as the country was heading towards another Great Depression and losing about 800,000 jobs a month, then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rallied his Republican troops in the Senate to obstruct anything President Obama and the Democrats attempted to do legislatively to turn things around. That became the template of total obstruction by Republicans that defined the Obama presidency. So excuse all of us as we point and laugh at McConnell’s most recent attempt to cast Democrats as simply “partisan” when they disagree with Republican extremism.
The truth is that Democrats are demonstrating that they are not like Republicans when it comes to the kind of obstruction that puts partisan interests over legislation that is good for the country, as we can see by their work on bipartisan sentencing reform. While it can make all of us uncomfortable in this era of Trumpism, Van Jones made a good point about the fact that the reforms that are on the table right now are a good first step in the right direction and that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Full clip here: "There are 200,000 people behind bars. They have no hope, no help. We haven't passed a bill to help them in almost two generations. This is something both parties can take some credit for it. I hope we will give this thing a chance to pass." #FirstStepAct @cut_50 pic.twitter.com/yNyF6Ms8gB
— Van Jones (@VanJones68) November 15, 2018
I’m sorry that Jones didn’t take a moment to point out that this puts a lie to the idea that Democrats are just like Republicans when it comes to putting party over country. The Democrats who have worked on improving this legislation and those who decide to eventually vote for it will make a mockery of the president’s claims that their party is nothing but obstructionist. It is very likely that, before the year is out, we’ll see the same thing on the farm bill.
For those who can’t stomach the idea of giving Republicans a small win on alleviating this country’s problem with mass incarceration, there are still plenty of opportunities to call them out on their racist lies and policies. For example, on the same day that Trump endorsed sentencing reform, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a searing condemnation of his administration’s approach to dealing with police brutality.
The commission’s 200-page report, endorsed by a majority of the eight members, concludes that black Americans, among others, have valid concerns about police violence and lack of officer accountability.
In response, the report concludes, federal officials should resume the practice — abandoned since Donald Trump became president — of investigating local police departments accused of systemic civil rights violations and resurrect the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services…
“The evidence is very strong that having federal oversight in terms of a court decree has dramatically improved the quality of life in communities with those agreements,” said Lhamon, a former assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department. “The turn away that we’re seeing in this administration is a turn against civil rights.”
This is the primary issue that led athletes to take a knee during the National Anthem, which resulted in Trump’s racist attacks on them. You might also remember that the president actually encouraged police to “get rough” with people they are arresting and has consistently called for reinstatement of the unconstitutional “stop and frisk” approach. So whatever it is that is motivating Trump to support some mild adjustments to sentencing reform (ie. Jared Kushner’s dad went to prison), it has nothing to do with abandoning his consistently racist approach to criminal justice and law enforcement.
We are living in a time when politics has been consumed with the partisanship of “us vs. them,” which quickly descends into “good vs. evil.” A framework like that is exactly what Republicans want because it disguises the fact that they have no interest in governing and have to resort to fear mongering to stay in the game. For our democracy to survive, at least one party has to be willing to put the interests of the American people over raw political power. That is what we’re seeing from Democrats and it should be the death knell to bothsiderism. Will the mainstream media notice? I’m not going to hold my breath.