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January 29, 2012

NAACP head recognizes Tea Party favors some progressive criminal justice reforms (and sometimes more than Democrats)

A helpful reader alerted me to this little piece from Slate with an interesting Q+A with Ben Jealous, the head of the NAACP, in the wake of this past week's State of the Union Adresss.  Here is the particular Q and A that I found especially blog-worthy:

Slate: Ron Paul answered a question about his old newsletters by saying he was the most anti-racist candidate: He wanted fair criminal justice reform. Did you buy it?

Jealous: We've found common cause with libertarians across the South, for years. In Texas, Ron Paul's state, we've passed a dozen progressive criminal justice reforms last year, working with the Tea Party.  In South Carolina we got one-to-one on crack versus powder, which we couldn't get Congress to do when Democrats controlled it.  In Georgia, we just pushed through the biggest review of criminal justice policy in the entire country, again, working with a Tea Party governor and Tea Party supporters.  Criminal justice reform is, if you will, the big silent agreement in this country.  It's ideas like treatment instead of incarceration appeal from libertarians to liberals alike, to progressives and conservatives alike.

If you divide the Tea Party, it divides into three groups: The libertarians, the fiscal conservatives, and the social conservatives.  And when you go them and say rehab is seven times more effective than prison, they pay more attention.  The pot-smoking wing pays attention.  The Christian conservatives, who are very involved in prison ministry, already know it.  So Ron Paul has a point that policies he is promoting, on criminal justice reform, are policies that need to be discussed and would have a positive impact on the black community.

January 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM | Permalink


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Mr. Jealous might do better to seek reforms in something that has failed (like the war on poverty -- more people on food stamps than ever) rather than something that has succeeded (the war on crime -- 50% less crime now than two decades ago, due to increased incarceration, more aggressive policing and the government's success tamping down on the crack wars (all accomplished no thanks to him)).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 29, 2012 1:21:38 PM

Isn't Newt Gingrich polling highest among tea party supporters?

Newt certainly is no champion of curbing the madness of the war on drugs.

Are there really any libertarians in the tea party?

Posted by: Cali. Capital Defense Atty. | Jan 30, 2012 1:30:47 AM

Fiscal conservatives are not primarily concerned about social issues and cutting costs by ending costly criminal policies often isn't top of their list.

Social conservatives often support the moral position that the strict policies are legitimate but at times (see Rick Santorum on voting rights of felons) have alternative paths.

So we are left with 1/3 of the group for consistency, but 'libertarians' repeatedly in the end (see Ron Paul -- "R") go along, if at times not happily, with the Republicans, who on the whole are worse.

The fact that on a few issues Tea Party groups might at times be better only takes you so far when as a whole they are worse. The racist aspects (including enabling ala Ron Paul) alone at the very best cancels out the limited good points.

But, you take support when you can and at worse cite it to make the other side feel bad or look bad for being inconsistent.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 30, 2012 12:55:17 PM

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