why are democrats silent on the major prison strike happening in the u.s.?

August 30, 2018
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August 21st marked the beginning of what is likely the biggest prison strike ever to happen in the United States. Silence from Republicans is expected but the Democratic establishment has not said a thing after toting their progressiveness in the face of Trump’s blatant bigotry. Was that all just performative?

Democrats have always basked in the light of moral superiority when it came to the Trump administration but what does that actually mean when that doesn’t translate in deed, and most importantly, policy? “Even as the party’s looming presidential primary contenders attempt to position themselves as progressive standard-bearers, their unwillingness to back the strike underscores the limits of the party’s discourse around criminal justice reform” reported Splinter. Trump has revealed the extent of apathy coursing through the Republican party but his actions have also exposed the centrist-leaning corporate-prioritizing political doctrine that serves as the foundation of the blue party.

Notable Democrat and Senator Kamala Harris is one figure that has been surprisingly silent, considering she has fought the death penalty ruling of a Federal judge when she was Attorney General and has even written a personal essay for Essence on the growing numbers of female inmates in prisons and how the justice system should move toward rehabilitation instead of mass incarceration. On the other hand, Harris has shown a troubling stance regarding not paroling prisoners early because it decreases prison labor – one of the strike demands is the eradication of forced labor and meager prison wages.”Especially pertinent to the strike was her office’s contention that California’s prisons would lose a vital source of labor if they let some people out early.” As a supporter of ICE’s existence, Harris is a questionable person to place full support in, but then again, she is just part of a larger base of quiet Democrats.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is another Democrat that carries a seemingly progressive reputation because New York is a sanctuary city for immigrants and the Governor has come out against Trump’s antics on a few occasions. It’s problematic that merely disagreeing with Trump can make you progressive because “Cuomo attempted to cut the number of visits, books, and packages prisoners could receive—a direct attack on the kinds of things that make life worth living,” according to Splinter. It would make sense that Cuomo would be quiet about prisoners demanding that these kinds of things be restored in order to make what is supposed to be a rehabilitation process, more bearable.

So which Democrat can we rely on? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the strike, but she is new on the roster and can’t speak for the entire establishment. The silence isn’t surprising considering “Democrats have long been complicit in a bipartisan approach to criminal justice which has led to an expanding security apparatus, as well as little to no material gains for those more directly impacted by racist policing, discriminatory incarceration, and prison abuse.” This is highly problematic for the party that is supposed to be the haven of marginalized communities in America.

Prisoners have realized that no one will save them but themselves, but that begs the question: if Democrats won’t fight for the truly marginalized, who will?



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