“A Critique of Liberalism in Progressive Politics.”
The 2016 presidential election and resulting political upheaval reflects the weakness in progressive politics in this country. In my humble opinion, that weakness is liberalism. In progressive politics there exists two strains: liberalism and radicalism. It seems to me that liberals have a history of selling out progressive politics—or just barely doing enough to advance the cause of social and racial justice.
Take for example the construction period after slavery. The liberal Republicans in the North supported policies that empowered Black people. This led to the unprecedent political and economic advancement of Black people in former Confederate states. But then came the presidential election of 1876. Liberal Republicans compromised with white Southerners who resented the federal protections that allowed Southern Blacks to thrive. In order for Ruther B. Hayes’ election to go unchallenged, liberal Republicans promised to remove those federal protections and to no longer interfere in Southern politics. This ushered in an era of Black Codes and Jim Crow—legalized racial discrimination of Black people that lasted almost for a hundred years.
Another case in point is how liberal Democrats voted in the 1990s for the crime bill that led to mandatory minimums, longer prison sentences, and other policies reinforcing mass incarceration, which disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic people. This is to say nothing of the Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Act or the Prison Litigation Reform Act, both of which limit the rights of prisoners to access the courts, leading to the increased abuse and mistreatment of prisoners and to their inability to seek justice for unlawful convictions.
Now, today, liberals are once again selling out progressive politics when it comes to criminal justice reform. The focus is just on non-violent drug offenders. But there’s very little talk about rehabilitation, especially for juvenile and youthful offenders who are most likely to change but are most susceptible to the negative and corrupted influences of the prison environment that are allowed to fester.
Every day, I struggle behind these walls to help young prisoners reform and rehabilitate themselves. I know how damaging the prison system is, but I don’t see none of these liberals clamoring for comprehensive reforms and correctional management policies. Why? I’ll answer that question next time.
This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Follow me on Facebook @freeDontieMitchell. Thank you for listening, and God bless.
(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.