It must be hard for people to trust America when our president exploits his fundamental mistrust of everything our country stands for to sway opinion in his favor. For those who voted for Barack Obama, is it possible to still trust America when he claims to believe in our nation of laws?
The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals.1
Instead of honoring this promise, administration efforts have gone to manipulating our bureaucracy to find chinks in the armor, casting doubts about fairness and legitimacy whenever there is a conflict with what Obama wants to sell to the nation.
You can’t trust America if you aren’t white.
Call it reverse racism or ethnic favoritism, nothing tells the people you don’t trust America like playing the race card to level the playing field in a country that prides itself on providing opportunity. This is an ugly one that rears its partisan head in everything from blocking immigration enforcement, to going after states for voter ID regulations, to the movement to raise the minimum wage, to questioning school discipline (see: Universal Preschool: Civil Rights and Race, or Bad Kids?).
In Washington the best laid plans often don’t work out. What do you do when your most extreme efforts seem certain to fail? In this case, you look elsewhere for unfairness.
Felons need to trust America, too.
Running out of options to drum up support for a failing legacy, the time has arrived for the Obama administration to help felons trust America again, or at least to trust the president’s idea of what being a nation of laws means. This week’s announcement by the Justice Department that it would open the door to commuting the sentences of offenders sentenced to unduly harsh prison terms sounded like the right thing to do:
“For our criminal justice system to be effective, it needs to not only be fair; but it also must be perceived as being fair,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole. “2
Lurking in the background is a cynical appraisal of the benefit to be had from convincing Americans that they should not trust America because their country is unfair.
There is nothing especially new about the Justice Department’s plans, other than the president’s determination to do things on his own. Last Christmas the White House commuted the terms of eight prison inmates:
Today, I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system.3
Alas, eight people was hardly enough for Democrats to make up for unfairness in America, the party’s rallying cry this midterm season. What else can we do for felons?
Obamacare goes to prison.
Who would have thought that another selling point for Obamacare would be better health care for criminals? Taking some responsibility for convincing the country that the health care law is still a good idea, the Justice Department spelled out the benefits of the ACA for uninsured convicts:
The fact is that the Affordable Care Act holds the promise of expanding health care coverage to uninsured Americans, and potentially opens Medicaid enrollment to some 15 million low-income adults, including the millions of individuals who come into contact with our criminal justice system, of whom upwards of 90 percent are uninsured.4
Where is all this good news and hope for mass clemency headed? Where else? The ballot box and a reason to trust America again.
For felons to trust America, they need to vote.
Recalling slavery and the treatment of African Americans after the Reconstruction, Eric Holder spoke of the injustice of felony disenfranchisement:
Throughout America, 2.2 million black citizens – or nearly one in 13 African-American adults – are banned from voting because of these laws. In three states – Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia – that ratio climbs to one in five. These individuals and many others – of all races, backgrounds, and walks of life – are routinely denied the chance to participate in the most fundamental and important act of self-governance. They are prevented from exercising an essential right.5
Denial and unfairness are the take home messages. We hear the same things about other groups punished by our nation of laws including illegal immigrants who are, ironically, said to be treated unfairly while the tax dollars lost because of their presence is deemed justified by our unjust system.
If you can’t trust America because the system is unfair to criminals, how can you trust a president whose administration uses felons to drum up support in an election year? This is where the Obama legacy is headed. You can’t trust America, but you can trust felons to do the right thing for Democrats if you place a little trust in them. So much for our nation of laws.