- - Thursday, April 25, 2019


Democrats can dream of a 50-state strategy, per Howard Dean, but it’s only a dream. The South, once the exclusive preserve of Democrats and yellow dogs, is almost solid again, and this time Democrats and yellow dogs have been evicted and the region is red and safely Republican. The Rust Belt, once a Democratic stronghold, voted for Donald Trump, and might again. Bernie Sanders thinks he can fix all that by making the nation’s prison population solid for the Democrats.

The senator from Vermont told a town hall at Harvard the other night that he thinks extending the vote to felons behind bars is the right and proper thing to do. He would send an absentee ballot to the Boston Marathon killer. Just because the likes of Charles Manson inflicted wholesale murder on society doesn’t mean that such killers should be deprived of participating in making the rules for the democracy they abused and then spurned.

“If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they’re going to be punished,” Mr. Sanders said. “They may be in jail 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole life. That’s what happens when you commit a serious crime. But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away you’re running down a slippery slope. I believe even if they are in jail, they’re paying the price to society, that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.”

An open mind is usually a good thing, but there’s not much value in a mind so open that your brains fall out. The Sanders proposal was too much for some of the other Democrats in the race for the Democratic nomination. Sen. Kamala Harris of California wanted to sound liberal and forward looking and all, but she said she would settle for “a conversation” about it. After that, maybe they could appoint a committee to study it and soon the idea would go away. Pete Buttigieg, the shrewd boy mayor of South Bend, who sometimes says common-sensical things, shunned the idea out of hand. Only Bernie gave the notion a whole-hearted endorsement. So far.

Prisoners who have paid their debt to society might be entitled to vote, although in most states that right must be endorsed post-prison to make sure that a prisoner is firmly rehabilitated. Restoring the right to vote is not automatic. Once a prisoner has served his time, paid his debt, and re-entered society, he should be entitled to regain the right to participate fully in society. Ours is a country of second chances and final acts, and that’s a good thing. The voters of Florida, hardly a redoubt of bleeding hearts, recently backed the idea of extending the vote to ex-felons with some 65 percent of the vote.

But enabling incarcerated terrorists, murders, rapists and child molesters to vote while serving their time is not a good thing. There’s a reason law-breakers are removed from society. Part of it is to protect the law abiding from those who mean the rest of us harm. Another part is to punish. Voting falls under the category of what it means to be a citizen. Only two states allow prisoners to vote, Maine and Bernie Sanders’ own Vermont.

The Democratic Party is moving left, and swiftly. Only yesterday, it was orthodox Democratic doctrine that marriage was a pact made by one man and one woman; both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said so. Abortion was regarded as taking a human life, sometimes necessary but never after the child is born and never as a rite of feminist passage. The rule of law was held to be all but sacred; a coup d’etat was for something for dictatorships. We got rid of unpopular presidents only at the ballot box. This is where Democrats appear to believe that working to discard all that is where their base is. That base is no longer made up of merely feminists, embittered racial minorities and employees of the state. Now it’s to include felons, too. Campaigning at San Quentin is just around the corner.

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