Twenty-seven thousand people cast votes on Tuesday in the Democratic primary in New York’s Fourteenth Congressional District, and most of them voted for a twenty-eight-year-old left-wing political newcomer named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Just nine months ago, Ocasio-Cortez had been tending bar at a Mexican restaurant near Union Square. Her incumbent opponent, the longtime congressman Joseph Crowley, has represented the area since Ocasio-Cortez was in elementary school, and was, until now, widely seen as a future contender to become House Speaker.
Last month, Crowley’s victory looked so assured that he sent a surrogate to a debate with Ocasio-Cortez rather than attend himself. Crowley had been handpicked for his seat in Congress years ago by Thomas Manton, the last great boss of the Queens Democratic machine. But the Fourteenth District—a collection of mostly working-class neighborhoods straddling Queens and the Bronx—is now half Hispanic and just a fifth white. Crowley’s loss to the daughter of working-class Puerto Ricans confirmed a change in outer-borough political power that has both been inevitable and long delayed. But it was more than that, too. During her campaign, Ocasio-Cortez called for Congress to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, pledged her support for a federal jobs guarantee and Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all program, called for aggressive antitrust regulation that would break up the tech giants, and ran with the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America. For a while this spring, the midterms looked increasingly predictable and contained: it would be a partisan fight between Donald Trump and his opponents, waged in a fixed number of swing districts. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory suggests that the map may be larger than that. [Continue reading…]
Discussions of reforming our criminal justice system demand us to ask philosophical and moral questions. What should be the ultimate goal of sentencing and incarceration? Is it punishment? Rehabilitation? Forgiveness? For Catholics, these questions tie directly to the heart of our faith.
Solutions are already beginning to take shape, which include unraveling the War on Drugs, reconsidering mandatory minimum sentencing and embracing a growing private prison abolition movement that urges us to reconsider the levels at which the United States pursues mass incarceration. No matter where these proposals take us, we should pursue such conversations with an openness to change and an aim to rehabilitate our brothers and sisters wherever possible and wherever necessary. By nature, a society that forgives and rehabilitates its people is a society that forgives and transforms itself. That takes a radical kind of love, a secret of which is given in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And let us not forget the guiding principle of “the least among us” found in Matthew: that we are compelled to care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and, yes—the imprisoned.