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November 7, 2012

With Prez Obama projected to win second term, could sentencing reform get a boost?

All the major networks are now projecting that President Barack Obama has tonight won a second term; my first thought, of course, is to start to speculate about what this could mean for the future of sentencing reform.  For many reasons, I think the outcomes of the three state marijuana legalization initiatives and the California three-strikes and death penalty initiatives could ultimately have more national criminal justice echoes than the presidential results.  Still, with the occupant of the White House now certain again, I see two great new uncertainties concerning the prospects for future criminal justice reforms:

1.  After a pretty "status quo" first term with very little political capital or energy spent on criminal justice reform, might President Obama give more attention to criminal justice reform issues in his second (lame-duck) term?  Might he, for example, start using his clemency powers more fully or urge his Justice Department to advocate more forcefully for reductions in federal prison populations?

2.  Upon recognizing that the party's national election fate could be doomed by an enduring failure to appeal to minority and younger voters, might some of the smartest stategists within the GOP view criminal justice reform (and especially drug war reform) as a potential means to seek to reconnect with these critical voting blocks?

I fear that the answer to all these questions will end up being no, but it could become a really exciting time for sentencing reform fans if some of these questions are answered yes.

November 7, 2012 at 12:04 AM | Permalink

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"Upon recognizing that the party's national election fate could be doomed by an enduring failure to appeal to minority and younger voters, might some of the smartest stategists within the GOP view criminal justice reform (and especially drug war reform) as a potential means to seek to reconnect with these critical voting blocks?"

Actually, the GOP's problem last night is simple to diagnose, and one Obama put his finger on quite early: The gender gap. Republicans don't have to do one whit better with minorities or the young. If they had done a few percentage points better with women, Romney would be President-elect today.

And here's the bad news for the druggies: Women are more opposed to drugs and drug legalization than men. Thus, Republicans would be compounding, not fixing, their problem by antagonizing women more than they do at present.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2012 10:15:26 AM

Last night was a stinging rebuke of social conservatism.

Republicans had no business losing Senate seats is States like Missouri and Indiana. But, Republicans can't help themselves. They nominate knuckle-draggers like Akin and Murdoch. (Remember their nominations of C. O'Donnell and S. Angle in 2010?) These anti-gay, socially conservative freaks appeal to the Republican base, but they are dead-enders in national elections.

The passage of the marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington is terrific news for those who are repelled by intrusive government. (Let's hope the Obama Admin. now changes its tune on the crazy drug war.)

Marriage equality measures passed last night --- or at least one did in Maryland.

Hispanic voters sent a clear message to old white guys: Trample on our liberty at your political peril.

All in all --- a good night for liberty, and a bad night for old white Republicans.

Posted by: Eric Leslie | Nov 7, 2012 1:09:41 PM

Bill, i simply do not see how the Republicans are going to appeal to women without kicking the Christian Right out of the party - and since that is a large [likely the largest] portion of the Republican electorial base i cannot imagine that taking place. Quite simply, policies designed to appeal to the Christian Right are going to drive women in droves away from the Republican Party. Especially now that hte Christian Right has expanded beyond attacking abortion and gay people to attack birth control, public schools, equal pay, and often the entire notion of women being able to work outside of the home.

Actually, marginalization of the Christian Right and social conservatives would no doubt be beneficial for this country as a whole with them being one of the driving forces of polarization of the political parties (the Christian Right is basically responsible for the extinction of moderate Republicans) and government - but as long as they remain a large voting block it is difficult to see that happening. And as long as the Republicans remain home to these intolerant people it is hard to see them increasing their appeal to female voters.

Posted by: Erika | Nov 7, 2012 2:11:01 PM

"hte Christian Right has expanded beyond attacking abortion and gay people to attack birth control, public schools, equal pay, and often the entire notion of women being able to work outside of the home."

Erika:
Being that you effectively murdered reality and rudimentary logic above, you ought ask your attorney to seek an appeal of your death penalty due to low IQ. [Since a compassionate country does not execute the mentally impaired.]

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 7, 2012 2:55:53 PM

E. Leslie, re: "Marriage equality measures passed last night"

Questions: When a man "weds" a man, or a woman "weds" a woman:

(1.) Who is the bride, and who is the groom?

(2.) Who is the husband, and who is the wife?

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 7, 2012 3:22:39 PM

Erika --

Let's try to just stay with the point Doug is arguing: That Repubs need to appeal more to minorities and youth to stay politically viable, and that one way to do that would be to support liberalizing drug laws.

The argument is mistaken. Repubs don't need to appeal more to these relatively smaller segments of the elecotorate. They need to appeal more to the largest segment of the electorate, that being women. They lost to Obama last night by 2% nationally, so what is called for is for Repubs to adjust, but hardly revolutionize, their stance on the positions in which women are particularly interested.

One such position is family health. Polling has shown that women are slightly more opposed to drug legalizaiton than men (perhaps because of the unhealthy effects of drug use). Thus, in order to appeal more to women, promoting drug legalization is exactly the OPPOSITE of what the Repubs should do.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2012 3:49:11 PM

Adamakis -

You are the Republican Party.

Posted by: Elena Ellison | Nov 7, 2012 6:38:58 PM

@Eric Leslie
Not only is your post a collection of stereotypes, it's full of verifiably wrong racial stereotypes. Just take a look at how Black voters voted on Prop 8.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 7, 2012 10:01:52 PM

Doug's second suggestion is more likely than the first; drug and immigration laws are two areas where there are opportunities for elements of the GOP to chart a different path. I don't see Obama softening in the least on any criminal justice issues, and in fact fear he will soon begin actively interfering with the states that just passed marijuana initiatives.

Bill's comments about women's views of drug prohibition are utterly specious! The reason women tend to vote Democratic has nothing to do with the drug war but is because of social issues, particularly abortion, contraception, rape, etc., where the GOP base has declared itself intent on regulating women's personal lives and hostile to its own "less government" mantra. The idea that the women's vote is some obstacle to scaling back drug prohibition is pure intellectual flotsam. That's not why women are in play!

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Nov 8, 2012 6:49:49 AM

Ever the shrewd political analyst, even while under armed police attack, Grits says that my view of women's opinions about drug legalization is "utterly specious."

Grits does this without being very specific about what view I embraced, so I'll go over it for him. What I said was that it would be mistaken for Republicans to embrace drug legalization in order to try to curry favor with minorities and youth, because legalization is DISfavored by a larger segment of the electorate, that being women. Accordingly, for Republicans, shifting to pro-legalization would, overall, weaken rather than strengthen their political prospects.

Here are the facts Grits omits (imagine that): "Meanwhile, women are less likely than men to believe that smoking marijuana is morally acceptable (43% vs. 54%), and also less likely to favor legalization (39% vs. 48%)."

Source: http://publicreligion.org/2012/10/unmarried-men-the-key-to-marijuana-legalization/

It may well be that women care more about abortion and contraception that drug use, and I didn't say or suggest otherwise. But the idea that they don't care about drug use is preposterous. They do care, and the hefty majority oppose it, as I said and the poll backs up. For the Republicans to shift to a position supported by only 39% of the largest segment of voters in the country would be foolhardy. It would only add to their electoral problems, not help ameliorate them.

P.S. If a point be made of it, drug legalization is also not the primary voting issue for either minorities or youth, anymore than it is for women. Minorities want relief from discrimination, particularly job discrimination, and youth would like to be able to find a job at all. As Gary Johnson's infinitesimal percentage of the vote shows, being for pot legalization is a political zero.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 8, 2012 9:35:58 AM

Elena Ellison :

Will you answer the thoroughly straightforward questions I posed to Eric Leslie?

[I.e. you can be Deborah to his Barak, as it were.]

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 8, 2012 1:20:30 PM

Bill, what's "preposterous" is your attribution of any aspect of an electoral "gender gap" to the drug war as opposed to abortion rights, contraception, etc.. Your argument is a self-interested pretense, not a representation of real-world political dynamics.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Nov 10, 2012 7:41:17 AM

Grits --

"Your argument is a self-interested pretense..."

You would know about self-interested pretense, now wouldn't you -- having bellowed on your blog about how you were the woebegotten victim of an armed police assault. Except that you made it up. Now you climb the pulpit to lecture about "pretense"! You're a hoot.

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/police-video-contradicts-bloggers-account-of-taser/nRkZg/

"...not a representation of real-world political dynamics."

You and your liberal, doper allies are doing a bang-up job with "real-world political dyanmics," now aren't you? Do tell us more about your Texas clout.


http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/11/06/ted_cruz_wins_texas_senate_seat.html

But just to return to the topic for a moment: Do you deny that women are more opposed to drug legalization than men?

http://publicreligion.org/2012/10/unmarried-men-the-key-to-marijuana-legalization/

C'mon, Grits. Can you tell the truth just once?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 10, 2012 6:23:07 PM

Surely, Grits, you can do better than just run away. Can't you?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 13, 2012 8:43:22 AM

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