Like the 1990’s, when — amid skyrocketing crime rates — politicians in both parties competed to see who could be the toughest on crime. Having lost three presidential elections in the 1980’s, Democrats were determined to not be pushed around anymore. Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas bragged that he supported the death penalty; he even took a break the campaign trail, at one point, to return to Little Rock to oversee an execution.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris of California at the Democratic debate in 2019 in Houston.
Among Democrats, there was, in that decade, not one tougher hombre than Biden. In 1992, during a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Biden, D-Del., bragged that a crime bill he had written was so heavy-handed that it did “everything but hang people for jaywalking.” In 1994, Biden, authored the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and would, for the next 20 years, defend what he called the “Biden bill.” Signed by President Clinton, the law led to longer prison sentences, more prison cells, harsher policing, and higher incarceration rates for African Americans.
The Judge Roy Bean version of Joe Biden doesn’t set well in an era where elected officials are talking about police reform and social justice. Finally, there has been a realization in many quarters that the criminal justice system is not serving African-Americans as many as it is serving them up to a vindictive and blood-thirsty citizenry. It’s about time that light bulb went off.