In recent speeches, President Obama characterized the wrongs embedded in America's criminal justice framework as an urgent problem. For the first time since he was elected, he's been highly visible in recent months visiting prisoners, cops, judges and service agencies. Last fall, he declared:
"...you’ve got a situation where officers of the court, judges, probation officers, U.S. attorneys, pastors, community leaders, business leaders are all coming together saying, what’s the problem we’re trying to solve here? The problem we’re trying to solve is not just to keep on catching people and putting them back in jail. The problem we’re trying to solve here is giving people a foundation through which they can then become productive citizens."With this nomination, the president bypassed the chance to show key voting blocks that Democrats care about more than "keep[ing] on catching people and putting them back in jail." Bad SCOTUS decisions are an important part of the reason America's bloated justice system has expanded to such massive proportions, with extraordinary deference routinely given across party lines to government authority at the expense of civil rights and individual liberties. After this nomination, its hard not to see all the president's touring and talking as little more than an election-year campaign ploy.
And yes, I know there are many other issues out there - like abortion and voting rights - driving this nomination. But advocates on those topics throw criminal-justice reformers under the bus all the time without a second thought. That's a big reason why things have gotten so bad: There are reformers on both sides of the aisle, but both parties consider justice reform among their lowest priorities. So, over the years, Grits has reached the point where I prioritize my issues over theirs, because otherwise, who will? Clearly not Barack Obama.
If "right of Scalia" is what a Democratic nominee looks like, maybe we'll get better from President Trump.
MORE: Here's a more fully developed version of this critique. AND MORE: Also here. And here.