Have Baltimore’s protests owing to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody signaled a tipping point? Does the will exist to put muscle behind criminal justice reform or is this another tragedy destined to be buried by our relentless news cycle? Slate’s Jamelle Bouie makes the case that by Hillary Clinton vowing to put criminal justice reform front and center in her presidential campaign, she is doing more than taking a political gamble, but forcing other candidates to join her in the fight. Author and commentator Shawna Vercher says that because of the coverage this tragedy has garnered, Americans no longer see Mr. Gray’s death as an isolated incident: “Awareness is the first step to changing the status quo.”
Commentator and author Anita Finlay states Hillary Clinton’s bi-partisan outreach in her speech, crediting both Republican and Democratic Senators who are working on the issue, “…is smart leadership. She’s extending an olive branch, as if to say, I’m happy to work with you and want good ideas, no matter where they come from.”
As to the lasting implications of Clinton’s campaign promise, Vercher reminds us people have short memories, yet Mr. Bouie insists that Clinton’s “giving thought to how we restructure policing and punishment” is more than campaign banter:
“Political science is clear: Presidential candidates don’t make idle promises. When they make a commitment or signal a priority, they try to follow through, and when they don’t, the party tries to hold them accountable. Now, Clinton is on the record, and if elected, she’ll face the kind of pressure that makes policy happen.”
It will be up to all of us to hold Clinton and her opponents to their promises.
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