In an ideal world, people evolve and grow. Our actions are based on the historical period and political climate in which we live, and I don’t think we should punish politicians who take in new data, and change their minds. But hypocrisy is among the characteristics I find most loathsome, and when we hold ourselves out to a be a paragon of virtue (or, progressive ideals), while failing to mention our own limitations, it irks me no end. That is why I’m left shaking my head at the fundraising duo of Schumer and Markey.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is scheduled to be in Boston on Thursday to help Senator Ed Markey at a fundraising event. On the surface I don’t like it – just as many progressives were up in arms about the Democratic Party allegedly favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Presidential Primary, I don’t like to see party leadership put their thumb on the scale like that. But when I paused to consider their histories, it made me even more unhappy.
In 1994, then-Representative Ed Markey voted for the now-infamous Crime Bill. Worse yet, then-Representative Chuck Schumer championed it. He fought for it. As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice, Chuck Schumer wrangled Republicans and liberal Democrats alike to get the 1994 Crime Bill passed. Democrats at the time were accused of “rushing to the right” on crime. Then-called “liberal Democrats” (aka “progressives”) felt that the heavy emphasis on punishment was a problem. The ACLU was appropriately outraged at the implications for communities of color and social justice. This was the law that created the 3-strike rule (mandating life imprisonment for federal crimes), expanded the number of crimes punishable by death from 2 to more than 60, elevated drug-related crimes to warrant more severe punishments, increased funding to build more prisons by billions of dollars, and eliminated higher education for incarcerated individuals, among other things. It fueled mass incarceration in this country, an issue most affecting communities of color (and black men, in particular). At the time, Chuck Schumer said, “Those on the left are wringing their hands, but they’re going to wind up voting for the bill.” (In fairness, he also noted that Republicans were unhappy, for the opposite reason.)
Then-Representative Schumer was right – the progressive (then-“liberal”) wing of the party voted for it, including the full MA delegation. This is not an issue specific to only Senator Schumer or Markey. But it is an issue that warrants more careful shading of Senator Markey’s progressive record. It is a reason for him to speak out about it now. And it is a reason to stop pretending that Senator Markey is a progressive angel, who is alone in his ability to deliver on progressive ideals. I’d like to hear a lot more (anything?) from Senator Markey on this issue, the sooner the better.
Worth reading on the topic:
Full disclosure: I am a volunteer for Joe Kennedy and have voted for Ed Markey.