Will Biden not make another promise to black voters?



With the push for federal voting rights legislation blocked in Congress, President Biden faces growing pressure from civil rights groups to enact new criminal justice policies, or risk not making another promise key to black voters.

Activists hoped the impetus for national outrage over the assassination of George Floyd by a police officer and the election of Vice President Kamala Harris, a woman of color with deep experience in enforcing the law, set the stage for long-awaited changes, including the easiest. prosecution of police offenses and limitation of their immunity from civil lawsuits.

But with languid legislative efforts in Congress and little White House public participation, Democrats are in danger of disappointing a crucial ballot in the run-up to the midterm elections.

“If we don’t see movement, we’re facing a tough battle in participation, in motivation,” said Aimee Allison, who runs She the People, a national network that focuses on getting women of color from states to oscillate. · Lants vote.

But as calls for criminal justice increase, so does the political challenge for Democrats. Violent crime has increased in cities across the country. While the overall picture is mixed, with some property crimes declining, recent incidents such as shootings by service police officers, robberies and assaults on Asian Americans have pushed public safety a major concern for voters. Even the mayors of progressive meccas like San Francisco are proposing more police checks in response.

The current environment makes many politicians wary of appearing to reduce law enforcement. While most Democrats have not tried to cut police budgets, Republicans have enthusiastically linked them to the “defunding police” movement backed by some activists, in an attempt to portray the party’s efforts to revise police practices. law enforcement as a risk to public safety.

“Unfortunately, Democrats have been associated with the kind of soft criminal approach … which I think has really hurt them,” said Ruy Teixeira, a senior member of the Center for American Progressive Left that studies demographic trends and the surveys.

The party is now compressed by both sides in the debate. GOP candidates are already on the airwaves pounding Democrats to promote illegality, while prominent black activists and media personalities are pushing Biden and Harris to deliver on campaign promises.

“I’m frustrated, but let’s not deny the impact we’ve had, and we also agree that there’s a lot more work to be done and it’s not easy to do,” Harris said in an interview last month with a radio. Lenard “Charlamagne tha God” McKelvey.

The loss of voting rights may have motivated Biden to show some progress in criminal justice. A source familiar with the White House deliberations, asking for anonymity to discuss the internal strategy, said the administration is considering an executive order that the president could sign imminently. These orders, by their nature, are far less powerful than laws passed by Congress, but they can use federal funding to encourage departments to improve training, recruitment, and incident monitoring.

“We have to contribute something to police reform, so I hope the White House will act,” said Karen Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat mayoral candidate who, along with the Senator Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat. , lobbied for executive action after last year’s failed attempt to negotiate a bill with Republicans.

Larry Cosme, chairman of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Assn., Credited the administration’s “robust commitment to law enforcement” on the issue, but declined to comment on the details of the negotiations.

Civil rights groups also predict a renewed effort, either through executive action or highly focused legislation.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more energy around this issue as we get closer and closer to the middle sessions,” said Jamie R. Riley, NAACP’s director of race and justice.

So far, however, the administration’s lack of major successes has opened it up to criticism that it has not given enough priority to reform.

“It’s been in the background. I don’t think there’s been a meaningful conversation about it,” said Yvette Simpson, executive director of Democracy for America, a progressive advocacy group. He noted that even former President Trump had signed legislation to shorten federal prison sentences.

“What Biden has to do is be better than that,” he said. “He can’t leave and do worse than Trump in criminal justice reform.”

For many black voters, legislation to review police practices is as important as federal voting protections, said Aimy Steele, leader of the New North Carolina Project, which works to increase outreach and organization among black voters. .

“Why? Because the act of criminal justice directly affects the way black and brown people interact with the police,” Steele said.

In contrast to his highly visible defense of voting rights, which included a fiery speech in Georgia, the president has made no comparable effort to move forward with a review of criminal justice.

White House officials point to executive action on this front, including terminating contracts with private detention centers and ordering the U.S. Department of Justice to enact restrictions on asphyxiation and non-detonation orders. federal law enforcement.

A bill with a more radical overhaul of police practices, including a ban on suffocation and non-detonation orders at the local level, and addressing “qualified immunity,” which protects law enforcement from most civil lawsuits, approved by the Democratic-led House in the spring. a party line vote.

But the measure, dubbed the George Floyd Policing Act, died in the Senate last year after negotiations between Booker and Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, broke down. People involved in the talks, including Bass, see little chance of a renaissance ahead of this year’s legislature, given the lack of incentives for Republicans to cooperate.

Biden has publicly urged Congress to pass legislation several times, including his reaction when Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s assassination in April. A White House official said Harris was behind the scenes talking to Booker while negotiating with Scott, but he agreed with others involved in the discussions that she and Biden deliberately silenced her public comments to make room for senators to seek an agreement.

Criminal justice is not part of Harris’ public portfolio, a conspicuous absence given his experience as California’s attorney general and attorney general. Some of her allies see this as a missed opportunity, both to advance the cause and to improve her political position after a hesitant first year as vice president.

Harris has struggled throughout his career to navigate the thorny politics of criminal justice. She worked hard to win over skeptical police groups in California for her statewide campaigns, but she was also beaten by progressives for not doing enough to tackle over-incarceration and police violence. His presidential campaign never made it clear whether he viewed his fiscal past as a selling point or a responsibility.

The Democratic Party as a whole is walking a similar tightrope on the issue.

Some Democratic politicians argue that the wider range of voters needed in the midterm elections, including many black voters, is more concerned with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on health, schools, and the economy.

“That’s what’s affecting their lives now. Can my kids go to school? Can I go to work?” said Joel Benenson, who served as a surveyor and strategist for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Democrats, meanwhile, are facing a more complicated political task: to continue to show support for some accountability measures, which remain popular, according to opinion polls, without appearing unaware of the rise in violent crime across the country. .

The party’s poor performance in the 2020 House race sparked a heated intra-party debate over whether the Republican attacks linking them to “defunding the police” were a political albatross.

Some prominent Democrats have stepped up their emphasis on public safety. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer known at the time for criticizing his department’s practices, focused his mayoral campaign on public safety. San Francisco Mayor London Breed has called for an increase in police in the city’s troubled Tenderloin neighborhood and has clashed with the city’s progressive prosecutor.

Democracy for America’s Simpson acknowledged that politicians are under pressure to crack down on crime, but said this should not stop them from working to address police misconduct.

“What we need to do is re-establish the conversation, separating security from police responsibility,” he said. “Everyone wants to be safe: black, white, rich, poor. That shouldn’t cost black and brown lives.”

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