Has Partisan “Soft On Crime” Politicking Lost Its Punch?


Traditionally, Republicans labeled many Democrats “soft on crime.” Politico.com notes that the Obama White House has taken the first steps in decades to move away from a strict lock-'em-up mentality – approving a bill that eases sentences for crack cocaine possession, launching a top-to-bottom review of sentencing policies and sounding open to reviewing guidelines that call for lengthy prison terms for people convicted of child pornography offenses.

The moves suggest that President Barack Obama's aides are betting that the issue has lost some of its punch with voters more worried about terrorism and recession. The administration felt free to boast that the new crack-sentencing bill would go easier on some drug criminals. Republicans who once accused Democrats of being soft on crime now accuse them of being soft on terrorists. Tinkering with the way run-of-the-mill criminals are treated doesn't seem to be the political third rail it once was. Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums said that “other concerns have crowded out some of the hysteria around crime.” Ohio State University law Prof. Doug Berman said, “Obama wants to do something, I think, big on criminal justice and I think he's absolutely afraid to. Democrats are right to continue to fear tough-on-crime demagoguery. [] This really is, inevitably, low-priority, high-risk kind of stuff.”

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