Once upon a time it paid to be a "tough on crime" Democrat, a label that Bill Clinton
fought hard to earn, even if it led him in morally grotesque directions
. The political winds have changed — in part, simply because in an increasingly polarized electorate, Dems are better off rallying the base than making "New Democrat" appeals to cultural conservatives who might have been swing voters once upon a time but pull the lever dead red nowadays. So we now we have Hillary Clinton
, who supported Clinton's 1994 crime bill when she was First Lady, changing her tune.
In Hillary Clinton's big policy speech
on criminal justice last week, in the wake of the unrest in Baltimore, she made clear that the new Democratic rhetoric doesn't sound a bit like the old New Democrats: "Without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be living in poverty."
Of course the problem of mass incarceration was exacerbated by elements in the 1994 crime law. Now Bill is joining Hillary, and renouncing the law. The Hill reports
“The problem is the way it was written and implemented, we have too wide a net,” Clinton said on CNN’s “Amanpour."
“We have too many people in prison. And we wound up spending — putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out that they could live productive lives.”
Still, he said the blame for some of the harshest provisions should fall partially on others whom he suggested would not have voted for the bill had it not included some of the harsher measures.
“But I wanted to pass the bill and so I did go along with it,” Clinton said.
Clinton said he supported his wife's suggestion that change is necessary: ""I strongly support what she's doing and I think any policy that was adopted when I was president, any federal law that contributed to it needs to be changed."
Bill Clinton, we might remember, often touted the '94 crime law when he was running for re-election in 1996. Times change.