Democratic presidential contenders are in universal agreement that it's time to abolish the racist and irrational sentencing disparity that punishes offenders 100 times worse for crack than for powder cocaine. But after the change is made, Hillary Clinton says that people who've already been imprisoned by this racist law should remain in jail. Why? A campaign advisor says it's because she's scared of what Giuliani will say.
Clinton, who said she supports a federal recommendation for shorter sentences for some people caught with crack cocaine, opposed making those shorter sentences retroactive — which could eventually result in the early release of 20,000 people convicted on drug charges."In principle I have problems with retroactivity," she said. "It’s something a lot of communities will be concerned about as well." [The Politico]
Clinton pollster Mark Penn explains why her position has everything to do with her fear of Rudy Giuliani:
"Rudy Giuliani is already going after the issue," Penn said. "He's already starting to attack Democrats, claiming it will release 20,000 convicted drug dealers."Speaking in Florida earlier this month, Giuliani said he "would not think we would want a major movement in letting crack cocaine dealers out of jail. It doesn't sound like a good thing to do."
Ah, but it is. These are people who shouldn't be in jail. And Clinton knows it. Punishing people 100 times worse because their cocaine isn't in powder form is so transparently insane that we really can dispense with the hollow rhetoric about "letting crack cocaine dealers out of jail." The law is so twisted you don’t even have to be a dealer to end up in jail for years.
If Clinton is really this scared of Giuliani, where does it end? The campaign is far from over. Will she continue to shift around uncomfortably every time Giuliani challenges her policy positions? Newsflash: he's gonna talk trash about everything you do, Senator. Get used to it.
We must now ask ourselves to what extent Hillary's other drug policy positions have been shaped by Rudiphobia. When she raised her hand in opposition to marijuana decrim, was that for real? Was there a little Giuliani in a devil suit whispering in her ear, threatening to tell the swing voters what a hippie she is? Will she backtrack on medical marijuana and needle exchange if Giuliani says he disapproves?
We can spend eternity smashing minority communities with our drug war hammers at the behest of authoritarian demagogues like Rudy Giuliani. And if no one speaks up, that's exactly what will happen. So if Giuliani wants to publicly embrace racist drug war politics, let him.
The antidote to the "soft on drugs" label is to stop looking over your shoulder and start speaking with conviction.