This is a clip of Thom Hartmann debateing Horace Cooper, Attorney/Conservative Commentator & Senior Fellow-National Center for Public Policy Research over restoring voting rights to felons. In the open of the debate Hartmann explains that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement support of restoring voting rights to felons. Holder pointed out in the statement that some states such as Kentucky and Virginia as many as one in five black adults have lost their right to vote as a result of a convection. The Attorney General also makes the point that the laws preventing not only suppresses the voice of minorities, it also does not serve any purpose except to perpetuate the stigma imposed on formerly incarcerated persons. Cooper who is African-American and conservative disagrees with Holder’s assessment and the move to restore voting rights to felons. Cooper says Holder’s assessment is “divisive” and “intended to create a false impression that the criminal justice system actually singles out minorities.” Cooper’s justification is that if “we put aside the so cold war on drug,” saying there is a race problem with felons not voting would be to say that the Police intentionally ignore other felony crimes such as robbery, breaking and entering, etc….that are committed by white Americans.
The trouble with Cooper’s argument is in thinking that we can “put aside the so cold war on drugs.” How can we put aside the war on drugs when that is the main contributor of why American prisons and jails are over capacity and the U.S. is responsible for 25% of prisoners in the world. The war on drugs which was issued in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan resulted in a massive inmate population increase. This “war on drugs” mainly targeted poor and predominately African-American neighborhoods and resulted with a shockingly disproportionate number of African-American men behind bars…specially compared to white Americans. Drug charges are counted as felony and as a result a massive percentage of the American-American community lost its voice when those felony convictions led to the loss of the right to vote. So one must wonder how Cooper plans to just put aside the consequences of the war on drugs and the disproportionate amount of minorities in prison when discussing restoring voting rights and the role of race. How do we justify the fact that some states have 1 in 5 black adults who have lost the right to vote and have been relegated to second-class citizens even after serving their time? There is really not any way to put the correlation between incarceration rates, race, and basic civil rights aside.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander