All day today I’ve been nagged by the vague feeling that I’m hallucinating, because I still can’t quite believe Bernie Sanders chose to saddle his party with a national debate over whether the degenerate who blew up children in Boston should have the right to vote.
Not the right to vote eventually, in the unlikely event that he’s freed someday and rejoins society. The right to vote now. From behind bars. In Supermax.
Am I awake? Trump is signaling with neon lights that he plans to run next year on a “Democrats are crazy radicals who love criminals” message and Sanders’s reaction is to go to bat on national television for … letting the Boston bomber vote?
That can’t have really happened. I’ll be so embarrassed later when I realize that I wrote two separate posts today about something I dreamed.
The clip below seems pretty real, though. As Whoopi says at one point, she and Meghan McCain are having two different conversations — and neither one is the conversation Bernie Sanders was having last night on CNN, as luck would have it. Bernie’s position is that prisoners should vote from behind bars; they’re still citizens, in spite of everything, and you can’t wait to restore their voting rights until they’re paroled since some of them won’t be. If the state locks you away and makes you dependent upon it for your survival, you should have a say in who’s in charge of that state. Whoopi takes the more moderate position, though, of focusing on voting rights for prisoners who’ve been freed. If you’ve done your time and paid your debt, she asks, by what logic should you continue to be denied the most basic privileges of citizenship?
Meg is making more of a moral argument: They’re degenerates, or at least the worst offenders like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are. Whether they’ve been released or not, they’ve done things that render them unfit for civil society, one pillar of which is voting. If you want to keep your right to vote, consider that before you undertake to murder eight-year-olds. At times she implies that the dregs like Tsarnaev shouldn’t have any rights, which is a bracing argument coming from a McCain: One of her dad’s pet issues, after all, was to ban torture, even torture of the worst jihadists. Having experienced the cruelty of his Vietnamese captors, he believed prisoners were entitled as a matter of right to a certain degree of humane treatment. Entitled to vote, though? No way, says Meg.
Had this debate played out awhile longer I assume it would have eventually zeroed in on whether there should be a bright-line rule for voting by prisoners or whether we should draw lines according to the severity of the offense. Whoopi wants a bright-line rule — if you do your time you get to vote again, even if you were in for murder. Meg might be open to something more nuanced — okay, fine, nonviolent offenders get their vote back once they’re out but not the worst of the worst like rapists, child molesters, and killers. What I can’t get over is that Bernie obviously knew he’d be challenged eventually on his voting-rights policy with some ugly hypothetical, like whether Tsarnaev should vote, and yet he either didn’t consider whether to draw lines for that or concluded that, as a matter of principle, they shouldn’t be. I bet his base respects the hell out of that. And I bet most voters don’t.