The state of our criminal justice system is simply so bad, the political climate for change so good, that it would be an epic desertion of our civic duties -- and of the pressure we as voters possess -- to let the 2016 election slip by without electoral promises of far-reaching reform. Which is why criminal justice must be a key issue for 2016 voters.
It would have been difficult, after the 2014 elections, to imagine that President Barack Obama could achieve much of anything in his last two years in office. After all, the opposition Republican Party had taken control of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections in 2014. The Supreme Court, led by the right-leaning Chief Justice John Roberts, maintained a narrow conservative majority. And the president's approval rating had dropped below 50 percent. And yet here we are, only a few months after the new Congress took up residence on Capitol Hill, with a suddenly resurgent president. Just in the last few weeks, President Obama has been scoring a surprising number of domestic and foreign policy victories. His critics are cowed. The president reached a 50 percent public approval rating for the first time since May 2013.
It is amusing for Democrats to watch the "Ted Cruz wing" of the GOP try to defend their big DHS bill, just as it will be amusing to watch them howl later this week when it gets split in two. All a Democrat will have to do to really rub it in will be to say, "But you've been saying all along that immigration reform can only be done one tiny step at a time!"
George Washington, who gave our capital its name and whose birthday falls on February 22, authored "Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation." Our first president's first rule was: "Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present." Can Washington, D.C., return to George Washington's ideals?
We have become a profoundly unequal society. Unless we can build momentum for a new political agenda, we'll be divided into a small minority with fabulous wealth and a permanent underclass with few hopes or prospects. Unfortunately, our mainstream political dialogue shows no sign of adapting to these realities.
Members of Congress, don't just say you support equal pay and then use gridlock as an excuse for continued inaction. It's time to walk the walk. Seize this broad public and political support as an opportunity to come together and move forward on one of the most fundamental economic issues of our time. Families are tired of waiting.