Crime and the Republican electorate: sign of a new day?

Newt Gingrich has endorsed reducing the size of the prison population. No one is listing that among the (many) reasons he won’t be the Republican nominee for President. That’s rather encouraging.

I’m enjoying the prenatal post-mortems on the Gingrich Presidential candidacy. I lack the chops to judge his chances of winning the Republican nomination, so I mostly defer to those who know more than I do. The verdict seems to be that he has two chances:  slim, and none. In any case, we know that God loves Barack Obama, but giving Obama an opponent as weak as Gingrich would seem to be overdoing it.

But if I stick to tending little my drugs-and-crime garden, then the really interesting part of the roll-out has been the dog that didn’t bark in the night-time. Last summer, I flew to DC for a crime meeting at AEI, hosted by Gingrich and featuring a mix of conservative activists and liberal criminologists. I’ve been at more bizarre gatherings, but not often. The discussion was serious, all around the idea that conservatives ought to embrace de-incarceration as consistent with fiscal responsibility and limited government. I’m happy to take any ally in that battle, and cheerfully made my pitch for mostly replacing prisons with well-supervised probation and parole.

But on the way out the  door, I said to one of my colleagues, “If Newt really goes for this, then he can’t possibly be running for President.” Silly me!  The “Right on Crime” group launched in January, with Gingrich, Ed Meese, and Grover Norquist as endorsers. And this week Gingrich announced for President.

And that’s when the dog did not bark in the night-time. Of all the long list of reasons why Newt can’t be nominated, no one seems to have mentioned his being soft on crime.

Could it be that the tide, at long last, is finally turning? Perhaps the Land of the Free won’t always have the world’s highest incarceration rate.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

19 thoughts on “Crime and the Republican electorate: sign of a new day?”

  1. George Schultz, Milton Friedman, and Barry Goldwater favored legalization of drugs. I expect Friedman would have repeal of laws against prostitution. Friedman favored repeal of minimum wage laws. All these prohibitions make crimes of victimless behavior.

  2. Oddly I am an atheist who agrees that God loves Barack Obama. I have had trouble imagining anything which would convince me that God exists. I think a Gingrich, Palin or Trump nomination would do it. If Herman Cain is nominated, I might even believe that God is One, Three, and has sense of humor.

    Come on You do want me to believe in You don’t You ? Think of my immortal soul which could be saved if You just convinced Republicans to vote for Cain..

  3. Alas, it took Nixon to go to China, and only a Republican president could actually put forward a policy of letting darkly-skinned criminalz out of prisons.

    And we cannot afford another Republican president just now. Sorry, incarcerated hordes. Sorry, fisc. Better policy will await reasonable politics.

  4. The over-incarceration rate is one area where all those lovably nutty libertarians could do this country a real service. I agree that Gingrich’s candidacy won’t go anywhere, but fwiw, actual governance isn’t his strength anyhow. Out of his many ideas, not all of them are bad. (A good orphanage probably beats bad foster parents.) Maybe he will be a gadfly like Perot? I won’t say it takes *all* kinds, but in him I do think there’s a little bit of a baby in there with the bath water.

    ‘Course, I could be wrong.

  5. (Waldman): “Think of my immortal soul which could be saved if You just convinced Republicans to vote for Cain..
    Palin, Cain, Johnson, Bolton. Any of these names at the top of the ticket, and any at the bottom and I’ll be happy. If the Republicans nominate Gingrich (R, ADM) or Huckabee (pbuh), I’m burning my ballot and voting Libertarian.

  6. You know Newt is desperate when he goes for the doper vote. A lot of tokin’ red necks who never vote would come out of the woodwork for it. Don’t underestimate the power of an idea who’s time has come.

  7. Why find this shocking? If you’re looking for drug re-legalization supporters among the major parties, you generally find them in the GOP, not the Democratic party. I think it’s partially driven by an understanding that the government isn’t supposed to do everything…

  8. I think an enormous part of this is because crime has not been a national cultural issue for a decade or more. Indeed, it has continued to fall or remained steady despite the biggest recession since the Depression. There is little electoral hay to be made out of crime, at least for now. Nonetheless, I doubt any major candidate is going to support legalization of any stripe.

  9. “If you’re looking for drug re-legalization supporters among the major parties, you generally find them in the GOP, not the Democratic party”

    Any evidence for this bold claim?

  10. Palin, Cain, Johnson, Bolton. Any of these names at the top of the ticket, and any at the bottom and I’ll be happy

    That’s what the competent Dem strategists say too. They know Newtie or comical Huckabee won’t be the candidate.

  11. If one were cynical one might consider that we have to make space for all the people without papers somehow. As tequila says, crime qua crime (rather than a few very particular crimes) hasn’t been a big deal since everyone who votes moved out to a gated community…

  12. Nah, this isn’t a turning of the tide. Gingrich is so terrible a candidate his stance on crime doesn’t matter very much.

  13. To some extent, the passions around this issue have just been transferred to immigrant detention. That’s where the growth is in the private prison industry. In Arizona, the laboratory for this kind of thing, fear of real or imagined crime is now almost entirely an expression of enmity toward immigrants, and it’s the dominant issue in the state’s politics. Detention numbers are rising sharply even as the illegal-immigrant population has declined. Bills before Congress would further increase the numbers detained.

  14. Don’t confuse de-incarceration and legalization. Even if probation and parole are made more easily available, Republicans will insist on felony convictions to disqualify the darkies from voting.

  15. Look, Mark, another potential JournoList adopts Spencer Ackerman’s tactic:…
    (John): “…Republicans will insist on felony convictions to disqualify the darkies from voting.
    (Spencer Ackerman):

    What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear…take one of them–Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares–and call them racists…This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

    As I wrote earlier, Goldwater favored repeal of drug prohibition. Gary Johnson favors a medical rather than legal response to drug use, and has supported legalization of marijuana. Who’s the Democratic equivalent? Kurt Schmoke and who else?

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