Now what do WE Do with It
By Houston Criminal Defense Attorney John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair
The “election” is over. Former Illinois Senator Barack Obama is now President-elect Obama. While it was a tremendous victory for the “Audacity of Hope” movement, it was an even greater victory for those who believe that social justice, racial tolerance, political unity, and strong presidential leadership are needed for this nation to heal its daunting economic woes and restore its proper role as moral leader in the world community.
While 48 percent (and 57% of the white voters) of the 131 million people who cast votes in the presidential election did not vote for President-elect Obama, the Illinois Senator told them in his victory acceptance speech that he heard their concerns and would be their president as much as he would be the president of those who voted for him. The nation desperately needs that kind of inclusive leadership.
Yes we can. This nation must find the political will and moral courage to thoroughly reject political partisanship, to find ways to protect the retirement savings of the elderly, to stymie the ruthless pace of home foreclosures, to make the power brokers on Wall Street as accountable as the small business owners on Main Street, and to make sure that every citizen in this country has a reasonable opportunity to secure health care coverage.
Yes we can. The American people have spoken, both loudly and clearly. They believe that Barack Obama is the person who can achieve these lofty but attainable goals. All Americans now have a fundamental civic responsibility to support the President-elect as he undertakes the awesome task of making our individual lives better, safer and more productive. Indeed Barack Obama now has the opportunity to be the Roosevelt of the 21st century just as Roosevelt was the Lincoln of the 20th century and Lincoln the Washington of the 19th century – and we believe he has the incredible gift of intelligence, courage and fortitude to not only seize but fulfill this opportunity.
Yes we can. We would request that the Obama administration restore the integrity of the Constitution to our criminal justice system by extending the writ of habeas corpus to anyone held in the custody of the United States, regardless of the physical location; close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; put an end to the kidnappings and torture of “terror suspects;” provide a public accounting for all “terror suspects” taken into American custody since 9/11; and close any remaining CIA-operated “secret prisons” around the world.
Yes we can. We would also request that President-elect Obama appoint a United States Attorney General who would lead a Justice Department sensitive to the hundreds of questionable shooting deaths of criminal suspects by law enforcement authorities nationwide; to monitor the scores of questionable jail “suicides” and beating deaths of criminal defendants awaiting trial in this country; and to create a anti-gang Task Force to investigate and prosecute the brutal gang leaders who rule the nation’s prison system with violence, corruption, extortion and intimidation.
Yes we can. We would also request that President-elect Obama, who helped “reform” the Illinois death penalty system, assume a personal, moral opposition to the death penalty. Approximately 82 percent of the 1100-plus executions carried out in this nation since 1976 have been carried out in one region of the country (the South) and approximately one-third of them carried out in one state, Texas. Virtually every civilized country in the world has abolished the death penalty – and it undermines America’s moral authority to criticize other nations about “human rights abuses” when it allows one region of its society to maintain a punishment whose historical roots lie in racism, vigilantism, and class revenge.
Yes we can. We would also request that the Obama administration take a strong stand against “domestic surveillance” unless it is directly related to a legitimate national security threat. The government has no business snooping into the private lives of the American people. President-elect Obama has personal experience with being linked to “guilt by association” as evidenced by Republican efforts to associate him with former terrorists William Ayers. The right of individual Americans to decide with whom to associate, to worship as they see fit, to espouse whatever political ideology they choose, and to embrace whatever sexual orientation they desire is none of the government’s business, so long as these Americans are not violating any criminal laws.
Yes we can. From a local perspective, criminal defense attorneys in Harris County now have a new district attorney, a new sheriff, and 24 new judges to deal with. That is a good thing. Harris County voters swept out the corruption in both the district attorney and sheriff offices while simultaneously rejecting collectively the “tough on crime” campaign of the 24 ousted Republican judges. While the sweep no doubt caught a few good judges in its path, the desire for a change is clear. There is now hope that responsible law enforcement, integrity in criminal prosecutions, and neutral fair-mind judges deciding criminal trials will become the cornerstone of the Harris County criminal justice system. All three components are sorely needed.
Yes we can. We can have these constitutional protections, individual liberties, and equal justice without sacrificing the legitimate rule of “law and order” and the need for a “war on terror.” Too often these slogans have been manipulated by politicians in pursuit of personal ambition rather than for the benefit of society.