On Monday night, Kamala Harris told a CNN town hall audience that “we should have that conversation” about allowing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to help select our next president. By yesterday afternoon, Harris had all of the conversation on that question she ever wanted, and then some. Speaking in New Hampshire at a campaign event, Harris suddenly backed the status quo for murderers and terrorists and others convicted of “the most extreme types of crimes”:
Democrat Kamala Harris last night: “We should have that conversation” about allowing the Boston Marathon bomber to vote from prison
Harris today: “Do I think that people who commit murder, people who are terrorists should be deprived of their rights? Yeah, I do” pic.twitter.com/XMqeVNkgUm
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) April 24, 2019
Harris expanded on her stance Tuesday during a Q&A in New Hampshire, calling the topic “complex” and stating that she takes the issue “very seriously.”
“I’m running for President of the United States, I’m going to be very thoughtful and serious about the issues I weigh in on,” Harris told reporters. “I’m going to think about it, and I’m going to talk to experts, and I’m gonna make a decision and I’ll let you know. I will tell you this: One, it’s a complex issue, I’m fully aware of that. Two, we right now have got a lot of work to do with the people in our country who have served their time and have been prohibited from voting.
“Currently in our country there are 6 million people who have served their time and are still prohibited from voting, and that has been an area of focus for me for quite some time and we have got to address that immediately. And so that is one of my first areas of focusing concern.
“But, do I think people who commit murder, or people who are terrorists, should be deprived of their rights?” Harris asked. “Yeah, I do. I’m a prosecutor, I believe in terms of, there has to be serious consequences for the most extreme types of crimes.”
Ahem. This flip-flop proves that Harris isn’t being “thoughtful” at all. The original question got explicitly framed around the example of a murdering terrorist, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber. Tsarnaev placed his bomb next to an eight-year-old little boy, for heaven’s sake, and then led police on a murderous spree until he got cornered and finally surrendered like the coward he is.
Yet on Monday night, Tsarnaev’s ability to vote was worth a national “conversation,” mainly because Bernie Sanders startled her into reacting rather than thinking. Now Harris wants to backtrack, helped along by media outlets like SFGate in this case, describing this reversal as “Harris clarified her position.” No, Harris didn’t “clarify” her position — she outright changed it as the ridiculousness of arguing for Tsarnaev’s voting rights belatedly dented her consciousness long after everyone else realized how nutty Harris sounded.
There are good arguments to be made for restoring voting rights after release from prison, or perhaps better after parole and probation have ended, but not while in prison. Prison sentences are imposed as punishment for having harmed the community in some significant fashion, and that punishment has to mean deprivation of the ability to choose leadership in the community at least as long as the punishment lasts. We don’t need prison precincts on Election Night. And for those who will never get out of prison, the lack of ability to vote may not be high on the list of deprivations anyway — but those are people who are paying for heinous injuries and insults to the community, and who therefore forfeit any moral claim to participate in its body politic.
The very fact that Harris didn’t recognize that basic premise on Monday despite her years as a “prosecutor” speaks volumes about her talent and skills on a national stage. Not to mention her disconnect from everyone outside the progressive bubble in which she has marinated her entire life.