I’m a Rand Paul Republican

Okay, not really, but when it comes to issues of criminal justice, this guy is right on and the rest of the Republican party is still in their “tough on crime” fantasyland.  I finished my Criminal Justice Policy summer class this week and was thinking about how one of my favorite students was an ardent libertarian.  When it comes to this particular class, the genuine libertarians and I are pretty much always on the same page (definitely not so most other classes I teach).  Anyway, I was thinking about this in light of Emily Bazelon’s piece yesterday about Rand Paul wanting to restore voting rights to ex-felons.  Of course, it seems entirely unjust and illogical to deny voting rights to those who have already served their punishment.  Then again, they are far more likely to be poor and non-white.  Bazelon:

When libertarian Republicans go on about the “tyranny” of the federal government, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is prone to do, I tune out. But not today. Paul has been talking for a while about how his conception of tyranny extends to long, draconian prison sentences for mostly poor and black offenders. Now he is introducing a bill that would restore voting rights to nonviolent ex-felons in federal elections. This bill is not about to become law any time soon. But give Paul credit for standing on principle even though he and his party would hardly benefit.

I’m also reminded of a recent Vox piece on Paul and the aforementioned sentencing reform:

Over the weekend, Rand Paul spoke at the Iowa Republican convention — and harshly condemned America’s war on drugs. “It’s a problem to lock people up for 10 and 15 and 20 years for youthful mistakes,” Paul said. He went on to point out that racial minorities are particularly unfairly treated by the system:


PAUL: If you look at the war on drugs, 3 out of 4 people in prison are black or brown. White kids are doing it too, in fact, if you look at all the surveys, white kids do it just as much as black and brown kids. But the prisons are full of black and brown kids because they don’t get a good attorney, they live in poverty, it’s easier to arrest them than to go to the suburbs.

Paul then called for compassion for young drug offenders, and argued that voting rights should be given back to some felons who’ve served their time:

PAUL: Most of us are Christians or Jews or of the Judeo-Christian faith, and it’s like, we believe in redemption. We believe in a second chance. Should a 19-year old kid get a second chance? I think yes. Let’s be the party that has compassion, that doesn’t say the behavior is right, but says, ‘You know what? When you’re done with your time, you get the right to vote back.’ Let’s be the party that is for extending the right to vote back to people who have paid their time, who have reformed their ways.

These aren’t new positions for Paul. But the fact that he made them loud and clear to a convention of Iowa Republicans is significant, because of Iowa’s importance to the presidential nomination process.

There’s no way stands like this win Paul votes among many Republican primary voters.  Kudos to him for standing up for the right thing.  Now, if only the rest of the Republican party was willing to do so.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

7 Responses to I’m a Rand Paul Republican

  1. Mike from Canada says:

    I would think a libertarian, or Republican would want people to be able to vote even when incarcerated, or on parole. The far right tends to go on about how the government is taking over, becoming a tyranny, some of them even believing the absurd conspiracy theories of Obama opening concentration camps, while they ignore the very real number of people in prison. Many of which have also lost their ability to vote.

    It seems to me if someone was really worried about government tyranny, they would be worried less about taxes or mandated health care insurance and more about a growing prison population and growing privatized corporate prison systems that are lobbying hard for increased prison time and more sentencing that involves prison.

    Especially since crime has been falling.
    I’ve heard it said the laws are such that every adult in the USA has committed at least one felony, and so is just one step away from being incarcerated and disenfranchised.

    The number of people incarcerated or on probation in the USA is almost 3 percent of the population. That should be frightening to any person who gives it more then a cursory thought.

    Since the election of the Conservative government in Canada, the Canadian prison system has grown it’s prison population to the largest in it’s history. It’s now .7 percent of the population, incarcerated or on probation.

  2. pino says:

    Then again, they are far more likely to be poor and non-white.

    As an educated fairly well off libertarian minded dude – you mention race and I see you as an ignorant partisan and ignore the rest of what you say.

    You may choose to not reply to comments in a blog – but I pay your salary.

  3. Steve Greene says:

    Ignore all you want. It’s a key form of motivated reasoning. That does not change the fact that the relationship between racial attitudes and other political attitudes– including criminal justice policies– is extraordinarily well documented.

  4. Mike from Canada says:

    When someone writes “dude” when referring to himself I tend to stop reading and question the writer’s assertion of being educated.

    If I did continue reading and the person asserted something like the writer did (ie, “…but I pay your salary.”) without adding some sort of signalling device to show good spirited joshing I’m sure was intended, I would suggest he might want to reconsider such in the future, lest the writer be thought a major douchebag.

    We certainly wouldn’t want that.

    • pino says:

      the person asserted something like the writer did (ie, “…but I pay your salary.”) without adding some sort of signalling device to show good spirited joshing I’m sure was intended

      The point is that the good Dr. Greene is a public employee. And I suspect that he is trying to sway opinion. It’s a valuable reminder that insulting half of the folks who you work for is not an effective method of getting your point across.

      Now, pass me a White Russian 😉

      • Mike from Canada says:

        “And I suspect that he is trying to sway opinion.”

        Very astute observation. I can see why they made you the boss of all NC public employees.

        You really haven’t really stated what it was that insulted you. Reading about minorities or something? Is that it? You don’t want to have to read about minorities? Or perhaps it’s just opinions that you disagree with?

  5. Steve Greene says:

    For the record, I’m not trying to sway opinion, I’m trying to inform it. I’ve got no problem at all with an informed opinion that disagrees with me. I’ve just found that a lot of disagreement stems from being uninformed (case in point Tea Party opposition to Common Core).

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