Donald Trump has championed a series of controversial ideas. He wants to build a wall, reminiscent of the Great Wall Of China along the U.S. & Mexico border. He wants to ban muslims from entering the United States. While these ideas are terrible, Trump offered two more ideas that are being universally regarded as awful.
The First Terrible Trump Idea is that women who get abortions should face some form of punishment for exercising autonomy in their reproductive decisions. Trump could not say if he would punish women with a fine or jail time but he did emphasize that they must be punished. This extreme position is an idea that goes beyond the pale for even the most ardent pro life groups. March For Life-a perennial pro life organization released a statement saying: “Mr. Trump’s comment today is completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment“.
Trump’s second Terrible Idea was to increase the presence of private prisons in our justice system. Perhaps Mr. Trump is unfamiliar with Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. who was convicted of accepting more than 1 million dollars in bribes from private prisons to fill their cells with juveniles. Judge Ciaverella is not the only justice to participate in such schemes. In introducing a profit incentive to incarcerate citizens, we pervert our justice system and undermine the faith citizens have in it’s outcomes.
These ideas represent a continuous decline in the seriousness of our discourse for the 2016 election.
During last night’s MSNBC Townhall, Presidential “struggle” candidate, John Kasich was asked by an African American republican: “what would you do to build trust and reform social and economic injustice in the African American community”. Kasich’s reply was noteworthy as it hearkened back to the GOP posture of yester-year. Instead of offering strategies for attracting businesses and jobs to black communities or addressing inequity in school resource funding or offering initiatives to build thriving charter academies in black communities, Kasich seemed to view the question purely as a Criminal Justice inquiry and only when pressed by moderator Chuck Todd did Kasich discuss jobs or the economy in black communities. Hearing “social and economic justice” Kasich seemed to pigeon hole the question as a stereotype of black interests in police reform. While reforming the criminal justice system generally has profound economic consequences, the tepid police related reforms offered by Kasich missed the mark in a significant policy sense.
Kasich’s reply was to recall his creation of a committee that worked to express to the black community the good will of law enforcement and that officers simply don’t want to be “killed” or “taken out”. While the safety of law enforcement is a primary interest to all, it’s inclusion in his answer serves to curiously reinforce the notion that cops are under-siege and the black “super-predator” narrative damaging Hillary Clinton. It is worth pausing to consider that Kasich was asked how to improve social and economic injustices and his first statement was to emphasize officer safety from the violent impulses presumably in the black community? He went on to note that he revamped the use of deadly force policy and moved to create a police force that looked like the community it was serving. In the field of criminal justice reform, Kasich was offering very low hanging fruit. The primary cause of black incarceration is non-violent drug offense but as numerous studies have concluded blacks are no more likely than whites to use drugs. The outrageously high rates of incarceration are a result of targeting and unequal enforcement of drug laws against black communities. As John Ehrlichmen-former Domestic Policy Chief for Richard Nixon confessed, the drug war was created to target black people. Numerous exposes have uncovered how law enforcement routinely enforces drug laws through greater scrutiny of black and poor communities. Creating diverse police forces seems like a minor reform, given the totality of the issue and it’s profound implications for black families, black businesses and the black economy. He ended his statement by highlighting his attempt to let non-violent felons wipe their records clean, in order to gain employment which does address the economic incentive that generally drives recidivism but he felt the odd compulsion to book-end his statement with “IF YOU’RE A GANGBANGER, YOU WILL NEVER GET OUT”. The response in totality was peculiar. Kasich offered a winding reply that offered the African American questioner a more diverse police force and a potential cleansing of records for non-violent offenders as a paltry sandwich between assurances to the general GOP voting base that he was still tough on crime.
Kasich was asked about social and economic injustice which could broadly be seen as a question relating to the economy in black communities. Only when pressed by moderator Chuck Todd, did Kasich discuss creating minority set-asides for the construction of a road in his state. Kasich could have seen the question as a prompt to opine on entrepreneurship and improving prospects for funding minority start-ups. It could have be seen as a question prompting a discussion of systemic impediments to creating wealth and opportunity. Offering clean records to obtain jobs in jobless communities for individuals that have lost years of potential training and education as a result of being incarcerated for recreational drug use, is a half measure and only a band-aid after the state has already inflicted a severe wound to the family of black communities. For a candidate that has built it’s success on the Tone of it’s candidate this was quite possibly Kasich’s most tone def answer of the political season.