In almost every election cycle, some more than others, there are republican candidates who claim to be tough-on-crime members of the law-and-order party. But in what sense are you tough when you only prosecute the easiest, low level crimes? Meanwhile when these same candidates and their peers become criminals with the widest reaching impact, they’re met with support from their peers and constituents.
To a lot of people that doesn’t look very tough. It looks like, and is, a bunch of people taking advantage of having absolute power over those with less money or connections. Why is robbing a convenience store more serious than robbing millions of Americans? Why do we amplify tactics on small time drug crimes and ignore what we’ve learned about sex crimes? Why aren’t we holding those who promote crime, hate, and violence responsible? It’s at least partially because there are people invested in the fact that we don’t do those things. They’re situations democrats could help make better, if they’re willing to rebrand what it means to be “tough on crime.”
Be Tough On the Crimes that Matter Most
For too long, being tough on crime has essentially meant one thing — being tough on the drug trade. The war on drugs and its disproportionate effect on poor and minority citizens has been well documented, even though drug use is relatively consistent across racial lines, and people from every income bracket partake.
One-fifth of our prison and jail population is there for drug crimes, and almost one-half of the arrests made last month were drug-related as well. Nearly half of our prison population is there for non-violent crime in general. These include things like property crime or public disorder. It’s impossible to say how many of these crimes wouldn’t even be prosecuted if the person being prosecuted had a higher social standing. Furthermore, the vast majority of them have a very low-reaching impact on society as a whole.
So why are we just as hard on a person who breaks into a car as a person who steals from millions of people? How can someone end up in jail for a non-violent drunken display while someone elected officials can act out with reckless abandon in public? Why aren’t democrats making an example of people who go against the values of our country to the point of treason when the current “tough on crime” party prosecutes anyone who doesn’t hold their beliefs? The latter of all these situations is where the most vial, wide-reaching crime occurs, and where democrats, or anyone who claims to value equality, justice, and fairness, need to start making strides if we hope to one day be a country where those things exist for everyone.
None of this is to say that we need to go easier on people who break into cars or that there’s an epidemic of people doing long prison stints for drunk and disorderly conduct, but at the very least, we need to meet people who commit more serious crimes with as much, or more, enthusiasm.
Start With Capital Riot and Go From There
The most obvious place democrats, or anyone who really values democracy, fairness, and equality should start, is with the Capital Riots. Prosecuting every single person who so much as trespassed would be a start, to show that we won’t deal with authoritarians and the people who support them. The theory that prison time will scare some people away from crime is real, the type of people who showed up on January 6th need to be shown it’s a possibility for them.
From there we should move on to the government and white collar criminals that steal from the American people every day as well as media outlets who misinform and encourage hate, violence, and false narratives. If it seems like a big undertaking, that’s because it is. This is what actually being tough on crime should look like, not just making an example out of the desperate and disadvantaged.