During a panel discussion on criminal justice reform, President Obama openly defended the Black Lives Matter movement and stated that the more harsh and less fair treatment of black Americans by police officers is a real issue (source, another source).
Black Lives Matter is currently calling for a Black Lives Matter themed Presidential debate that focuses on important issues to the Black community, such as criminal justice reform, and what the candidates propose to do about these issues (Black Lives Matter source).
When President Obama first became president he was more distant from racially charged issues, something he was occasionally criticized for. For example, he was criticized by some African-Americans for his sub-par statement following the death of Michael Brown last year (source). However, as Obama's second term comes to an end, he has been more open with his opinions on controversial issues such as race, drugs, and crime.
"But I'm in my last term, I only got a year left, and it's not like my poll numbers are that high. I figure I can go ahead and say it," President Obama said in a speech about drug abuse in West Virginia yesterday, in which he talked of his own illegal drug use (source).
There is a growing bipartisan consensus in Washington, DC that sentencing reform for nonviolent crimes is needed. In fact, today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send legislation to the full Senate that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, reform the early release system, and create programs to help offenders return to their communities.
We have learned in class that a president's approval rating does go down as their term goes on, but that their effectiveness due to experience tends to go up. How do you think this trend will affect the passage of prison and police reform legislation? And because it is unlikely that these national issues will be solved while Obama is still in office, to what extent should the next president follow up with these issues (especially given that prison and sentencing reform has bipartisan support)? To what extent should candidates address these issues?
Photos: Obama, black lives matter