This is probably the easiest layup the RNC will have this year. Bernie Sanders suggested during a CNN town hall event that even the Boston Marathon bomber should be allowed to vote from prison. Sen. Kamala Harris also said that was something worth talking about. All the RNC had to do was take those clips and put them together with a bit of video of the bombing and there you have a perfect attack ad: “Democrats believe this terrorist should be allowed to vote…from prison.”
It’s worth pointing out that Sen. Harris pretty quickly stepped back from that openness to having a conversation about allowing terrorists to vote. The next day she said that as a former prosecutor she agreed people convicted of serious crimes should lose their rights though she wouldn’t quite rule out allowing them to vote:
Question: "So you say the Boston Bomber shouldn't be allowed to vote from prison is what you're saying?"
Sen. Kamala Harris: "I'm saying that I will weigh in specifically, but that's a value that I bring to it, yeah." pic.twitter.com/aYZXCJVn16
— The Hill (@thehill) April 24, 2019
There’s a deeper criticism of both Sanders and Harris that can be drawn from this. In Harris’ case, she has a tendency to use the “let’s have a conversation” formula pretty often instead of actually making a judgment. In fact, the RNC has already hit her on this a couple of days ago:
When it comes to Bernie Sanders, he has a different problem. Bernie is an ideologue and a contrarian who enjoys taking positions at odds with a majority, even the majority of the left. Forty years ago he was advocating for the nationalization of banks and other major industries. And thirty years ago he was praising Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas. It certainly wasn’t smart to praise Castro when everyone could see he was a dictator but Sanders did it. It wasn’t smart to go all in for the voting rights of terrorists but Bernie did that too because he loves flying the face of conventional wisdom even when conventional wisdom makes perfect sense. (Even Cher reacted badly to this for goodness sake.)
In this case, the whole point of prison is to take away people’s rights and set them apart from society. If someone isn’t allowed to walk the streets freely they shouldn’t be voting either. And if someone is never going to be released, like the Boston Marathon bomber, then he should never be voting again either.
Sanders and Harris gave similar answers to the question about terrorists voting but for opposite reasons. He always wants to take the contrarian view and she always wants to appear thoughtful and nuanced. These are character traits that crop up more than in just this one instance. Expect to see more of the same from Bernie who, like him or hate him, is never going to change. Harris seems a bit more malleable. She could always announce that, after thinking about it, she’s changed her mind. Maybe she’ll rely on the “let’s have a conversation” crutch a bit less once she’s been on the campaign trail for a few months.
From Fox News, a first responder who was at the Boston bombing reacts to Sanders’ suggestion: