28 August, 2008

The Candidates and Hate Crime Legislation

This is the twenty-seventh post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views on hate crime legislation.

Many minority groups looks at expanding hate crime legislation as a civil rights requirement. That was obvious if you checked out the sites listed in my last post in the series, The Candidates and Gay Rights.

I said in that post that I wasn't bringing up hate crime legislation for two reasons. The first is that I wanted to bring it up in this post. The second reason however, is that gay rights advocates (and most minority rights advocates actually) are on the opposite side of civil rights on this issue.

Hate crime legislation makes it illegal to think or to voice harmful ideas about a person or group. It directly contradicts the First Amendment and gets our country into the realm of having "thought police". When we try to criminalize how people think and what they feel, we become a totalitarian regime and we give up the right to call ourselves protectors of civil liberties.

How do the candidates feel on hate crime legislation? As usual, we'll start with Barack Obama.

Going back to About.com:

Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation to expand federal hate crimes laws to include crimes perpetrated because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Glassbooth has this quote:

This vote was about who we are as Americans and whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality. Those who commit hate crimes should be punished no matter whether those crimes are committed on account of race, gender, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.

Ok, it's pretty obvious where Obama stands.

Now, on to John McCain.

From About.Com:

Hate Crimes

John McCain did not support the Local Law Enforcement Act of 2005.

And from Glassbooth:

"Senator McCain supports the strongest possible prosecution and penalties for all those who commit violent crimes no matter what the intent, and believes that all victims of violent crime should have their cases treated with equal urgency under the law. He does not support federal legislation to assert federal jurisdiction over crimes that are rightfully under the jurisdiction of state criminal justice systems that are perfectly capable of dealing with these violent criminal acts. Moreover, federalization would delay justice by litigating such heinous crimes through federal courts that are already overburdened."

That's not exactly unequivocal, though is it? Issues2008 has this to say:

[W]e have enough hate crime legislation. “Protecting civil rights must remain sacrosanct. However, we must not allow the First Amendment to be abused as a shield for those who advocate or conspire to commit acts of violence.”

Once again, back at About.Com:

He opposes federal hate crime laws, arguing that hate crimes are best addressed at the state level except when they otherwise fall under federal jurisdiction.

Ok, that was the feeling I was getting from the rest of my research. I thought when I started this one that it was going to be one that was pretty much black-and-white. Leave it to McCain to find the grey.


Obama: F. He's exactly on the opposite side of this in every way that you can be.

McCain: C. I considered giving him a D+, but that seems an awfully low grade for someone who's never voted in favor of hate crime legislation, at least as far as I can tell. His words make it clear that he thinks such legislation is necessary, but in this instance, I have to go with actions. Without the words, he'd have an A+. With actions supporting the words, he'd be down to the D level or worse. So, I split the difference somewhat and gave him a C.

Hate crime legislation: Advantage Mcain

Results so far:
  Obama McCain
First Amendment F D-
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C
Eighth Amendment C B
Eleventh Amendment B+ B-
Thirteenth Amendment D+ B+
Fourteenth Amendment D+ C+
Fifteenth Amendment B B
Nineteenth Amendment B B
Twenty-First Amendment A- A-
Twenty-Third Amendment A- B
Twenty-Fourth Amendment B B
Twenty-Sixth Amendment B B
Taxes D B-
Abortion A+ D
National ID F F
Voter ID A+ F
Card Check F A+
Legalization of Drugs D+ F
Gay Rights A- D
Hate Crime Legislation F C

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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