In a Washington that seems incorrigibly paralyzed by partisan acrimony, the coming together of conservative and liberal activists in the cause of criminal justice reform has, at least, novelty value. The Koch brothers, stock villains of all right-thinking liberals, joining forces with such conservative betes noires as the ACLU and the Center for American Progress? The Tea Party-leaning FreedomWorks cozying up to the civil rights stalwarts of the Leadership Conference? The alliance announced Thursday is inevitably material for strange-bedfellow headlines. “Look, is that a pig in the sky?” marveled my colleague Andrew Cohen in our morning newsletter.
This convergence, shrewdly branded as the Coalition for Public Safety, is real, and it matters. The right’s embrace of justice reform is important in its own right, and because it gives cover to liberals who fear being pilloried as soft-on-crime naifs. Much of America’s overincarceration problem was spurred by liberals — Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy — out to prove their manhood.
But a little context: This is not an overnight sensation, it is a moment many years in the making. It is not just (though it is partly) about fiscal conservatives wanting to cut government spending. And it is not assured of success.