I feel like I am constantly just bringing news stories in here, but I thought this essay on Cory Booker from Vox’s German Lopez (‘Cory Booker is a genuinely distinctive Democrat on one big issue: criminal justice’) was interesting:
My impression of Booker is that he is, at best, a centrist Democrat with a particular fondness for eye-rolling statements and charter schools.
I don’t think the article can substantiate most of its claims that Booker is running to the left of other candidates in a meaningful sense, though. Where it brings up issues outside of how Booker talks about violent offenders, it seems pretty muddy about whether Booker is meaningfully different than the mainstream. See this:
To deal with this, Booker introduced the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, which would authorize $2 billion a year to encourage states to cut prison populations while keeping crime rates low. Some experts, like Fordham University’s John Pfaff, question whether this approach will work — given that similarly modeled efforts in the past, including the 1994 crime bill that encouraged more incarceration, have failed to produce results. But it’s at least an attempt to wrestle with an issue, however flawed, that most federal reform efforts miss.
Booker has also backed more traditional criminal justice bills, ranging from the First Step Act to ending welfare bans for drug offenders to public defender reforms to “ban the box.” The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, though, shows he has a comprehensive view of the criminal justice system and the reforms that are necessary.
The material about Booker taking on discussions of violent offenders is interesting. See this:
Booker is also one of the few lawmakers to acknowledge that reversing mass incarceration will, at some point, require reducing incarceration for violent offenses, not just the low-level drug and property crimes that reformers have historically targeted. […]
He also noted that Americans’ perceptions of who’s a violent offender are often skewed.
“You could have someone who’s in a car, driving a boyfriend, and the boyfriend decides to jump out, pull a gun out, rob somebody, jumps back in the car, and she keeps driving — and now she’s a violent criminal,” Booker said. “So we need to start having a better conversation about the many people who are languishing in prison for very long terms when their crime was not showing the right sense and stopping the car and exiting the car as a driver or what have you.”
This feels like a valuable distinction to me. If there is a way for a Democratic candidate to thread the needle and lead people over the invisible river of “all violent crime is equally bad”, that is necessary for a platform to end mass incarceration.
I feel it’s worth reading in full, if only because we will see pro-Booker boosting; knowing the shape of their arguments, and where they might have merit, will be meaningful. This will be particularly important in a primary with Kamala Harris, who will be beating the I was a prosecutor, you know drum as hard as possible.