After President Donald Trump claimed he had done more for black voters than the Obama administration had, several Democratic presidential candidates spoke at the same black college in South Carolina and issued a blistering rebuke of the president, reports the New York Times. Candidates including Joseph Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, In., said the president had a history of racist demagogy that outweighed any efforts at criminal justice reform, including the First Step Act, which he signed last year. The First Step Act helped thousands of federal inmates secure early release under new sentencing guidelines, but Democrats framed it as an insufficient measure, calling for more structural criminal justice reforms.
“I find it hypocritical of [Trump] to tout whatever advances have been made in the First Step Act given his history,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “The hypocrisy is deafening.” Biden said the aim of reform is “not to let people out of jail. You have to let them out of jail and have access to housing and give them programs available to keep them out of the criminal justice system.” Polling shows that Biden remains the overwhelming favorite of black voters and the pacesetter in South Carolina. Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) was among the first candidates to propose not only legalizing marijuana but expunging records of past offenders. “It’s not going to take Kim Kardashian coming to the White House to expunge people’s records,” he said, alluding to Trump’s close relationship with the reality television mogul who has taken up criminal justice reform. Sanders called for Democrats to rethink their relationship to the carceral system altogether. “The primary goal of a criminal justice system should not be punishment, but whenever possible, rehabilitation,” he said.