The poll numbers showing Vice President Joe Biden in the lead by double digits have not persuaded socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) into backing off his extremist position on allowing incarcerated felons to vote in elections. Now, he’s doubling down by accusing the GOP of suppressing votes.
According to Fox News, Sanders appeared on CNN Tuesday, where he said all Americans “have the right to vote” and condemned the attacks against his position as suppression.
“At a time when the Republican Party and Donald Trump are working overtime to suppress the vote, to make it harder for people of color and poor people, young people to vote, we have got to make it clear, in my view, that if you are an American citizen, even if you do something terrible, even if you’re a bad person, we cannot take away your right to vote whether you’re in jail or whether you’ve left jail,” Sanders said on CNN.
Sanders is apparently laying out the prison pipeline argument, which suggests that black Americans are incarcerated at an exponential rate due to racist policies. In his view, restoring voting rights to incarcerated felons will somehow alleviate that.
“Clearly, what Republicans are doing is trying to deny people of color the right to vote and this is an issue I think we have to address head-on,” Sanders said.
As to those who would say his proposals are too extreme, Sanders said that nearly all of his other proposals were once considered fringe in the Democratic Party before they became mainstream. He feels this would be no different.
“Four years ago people disagreed with me for Medicare-for-all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, criminal justice reform, and spending a trillion dollars on rebuilding our infrastructure,” Sanders said on CNN. “People disagreed with me, they’ll disagree with me now. If you’re a citizen of this country, you have the right to vote and I will oppose all efforts to try to deny Americans the right to participate in our democracy.”
At a CNN town hall this past April, Sanders actually said that voting rights should be extended not just to convicted felons who have already served time but to men and women currently sitting behind bars, which would include: murderers, kidnappers, rapists, child molesters, thieves, and terrorists, like the Boston Marathon bomber. When CNN moderator Chris Cuomo asked Sanders to clarify if he actually meant to extend voting rights to people who have committed some of the vilest crimes on the book, the socialist from Vermont doubled down.
“Look, this is what I believe. Do you believe in Democracy?” Sanders asked at the town hall. “Do you believe that every single American, 18 years of age or older who is an American citizen, has the right to vote? Once you start chipping away at that, believe me that’s what our Republican governors all over this country are doing. I believe every single person does have the right to vote.”
Though candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), were somewhat tepid about criticizing Sanders outright, fearing that the progressive base would hammer them, some have begun to openly distance themselves from his proposal. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), for instance, recently said that he would rather look to change mass incarceration “so that we don’t even have to have the debate about people’s voting rights because they’re not going to prison in the first place.”
“If Bernie Sanders wants to get involved in a conversation about whether Dylann Roof and the [Boston] Marathon bomber should have the right to vote, my focus is liberating black and brown people and low-income people from prison,” Booker said.